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The batting order that struck the deal last night (from left); Senate President Tom Birmingham, House Speaker Finneran, Mayor Menino, and Red Sox CEO John Harrington

Lawmakers, Red Sox reach tentative agreement

City and state would kick in over $300M

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 07/26/00

fter weeks of tortured negotiations, the Red Sox reached agreement with state and city leaders last night on a compromise financing plan to build a new Fenway Park.

NEW FENWAY POLL

Are fans being taxed too heavily in order to finance a new Fenway?
Yes  No 

TODAY'S GLOBE COVERAGE

Park denizens look to past, future
Bob Ryan: Raise a toast
Fisk applauds new stadium
Brinkmanship hits a peak
Some councilors bash late deal

Index of prior coverage

WHAT'S OLD, IS NEW


Fenway Park opened for its first game April 20, 1912, making it one of the nation's oldest stadiums. (AP)


The model of a new Fenway was unveiled some time ago, the real t3hing is now officially on the way. (Globe File Photo / George Rizer)

FENWAY PARK DEAL

COST OF BALLPARK PROJECT:

Red Sox: $352M for stadium construction;
State: $100M in infrastructure;
City of Boston: $140M for land acquisition and site preparation, $72M for a new parking garage.

Total: $664 million.



ANNUAL REV. TO REPAY CITY

5% ticket surchage $4.5 M
$5 per car game-day parking surchage $3.6 M
15% surcharge on luxury boxes $1.5 M
In-park sales and meals taxes $1.5 M
0.25% hotel tax $1.0 M
Total $12.1 M

The Red Sox pick up all cost overruns relating to ballpark construction, land acquisition, and site cleanup.

The deal is conditional on the Red Sox obtaining private financing to build a new ballpark.

   

The plan relies heavily on ticket surcharges and game day parking fees to repay the city's investment in the project and calls for the team to cover cost overruns on land acquisition and cleanup for the $665 M project.

Red Sox chief John Harrington, looking drained after meeting for nearly three hours at a State House summit with Governor Paul Cellucci, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, cautioned that the plan would make it ''extremely difficult'' for the team to finance construction of the $352 M ballpark.

But Harrington joined the four political leaders late last night to hail the agreement and expressed optimism that the Red Sox will be playing in a new home in the Fenway by 2004.

''This is a significant step forward,'' Harrington said. ''The conditions this imposes on us represent a very difficult hurdle for us in securing private financing. But we have every incentive to do so, and we are going to start tonight.''

With the legislative session set to end Monday, political leaders said they expected to hold a hearing on the proposed package on Friday and to work through the weekend so lawmakers can vote on the matter before they adjourn. Assuming the measure passes the Legislature, the project still must clear the Boston City Council, which would vote on the landtakings needed to assemble the proposed ballpark site. The majority of the council has voiced opposition to the funding plans.

All four political leaders stressed that they had compromised to reach an agreement last night. ''We came a long way,'' Menino said. ''This works for the City of Boston''

Added Finneran: ''We were flexible and yet remained true to the principles that we each articulated.''

The breakthrough came after weeks of delay in which each political player offered his own version of how to finance a new Fenway Park. The four political leaders finally agreed to hold a summit meeting last night to try to resolve their differences.

Hosted by Cellucci, the meeting included all the major players in the drama.

Just before 6 p.m., Birmingham, Menino and their aides made their way through a throng of reporters to the governor's office. Moments later, Harrington and Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette and the team's consultants arrived, followed by Finneran, who smiled and quipped that he planned ''to keep his eye on the ball.''

Joining them were three prominent leaders from the Boston business community who have played a behind-the-scenes role in trying to craft an agreement - John Hancock chief executive David D'Alessandro, advertising executive Jack Connors, and FleetBoston Financial president Charles Gifford.

After warily watching from the sidelines for weeks as the four political leaders offered their own competing finance plans, each of which added costs for the Red Sox, Harrington began the day hoping for a last-minute breakthrough.

Anxious to find a compromise, the Red Sox chief sent a letter outlining the team's ''last best offer'' and had it delivered to the four political leaders by courier yesterday morning.

The team's proposal was a variation on the four plans. The Red Sox offer called for the city's investment in the project to be repaid through a combination of a $5 per-car game-day parking fee, a 10 percent surcharge on luxury boxes, and the transfer of some state sales, meals and hotel taxes to the city.

The team's acceptance last night of a 15 percent ''fat-cat tax'' on luxury suites was a major concession, team officials said. The Red Sox had long resisted a luxury-suite surcharge because they feared it would dampen sales they were counting on to help fund their $352 M investment in the project.

Under the team's original plan, the Red Sox had priced the suites at an average of $200,000 a box, tying the team with the Atlanta Braves for the most expensive suites in the league. With the surcharge, the luxury boxes would be the most expensive in league, the team said.

Despite months of negotiations over how to raise the $11 M a year needed to repay the city, it was unclear as the summit meeting began whether the political leaders would be able to reach an agreement. One major obstacle was the issue of who would pay to remove tons of possibly contaminated dirt from the proposed ballpark site.

For months, the Red Sox have they said they need the city or the state to pick up the $28 M tab for soil removal. Harrington argued that since the team had agreed to demands that it cover cost overruns on construction of the ballpark and a city-owned garage, the Red Sox could not afford to fund the possible cost overruns on land acquisition and clean up.

Without the city's or state's aid in covering cleanup costs, Harrington said, the Sox might be unable to privately finance the team's $352 M ballpark. Bolstering that claim at last night's summit meeting was Gifford, the Red Sox's banker.

But Finneran, who has adamantly opposed including clean-up costs in state infrastructure aid, refused to budge last night, with the result that the Red Sox will have to bear the expense.

Earlier in the day, the four political leaders met at the State House without the Red Sox to try to hash out a compromise. There was ''some yelling'' between the parties, Cellucci said, ''mostly about the soil-removal issue.''

One participant characterized the morning session as ''three against one,'' as Cellucci, Birmingham, and Menino struggled to find a way to persuade Finneran to include the $28 M in state infrastructure aid for soil removal.

Birmingham and Cellucci reminded Finneran that despite his public battles with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, he allowed state infrastructure aid for soil removal on Kraft's land to be included in the stadium bill passed last year.

Indeed, the language included in the Patriots stadium bill specifies that state funds could be used for other improvements including ''grading and site preparation...demolition and relocation of buildings, retaining walls and restoration of paved parking areas'' for the new Foxboro Stadium.

Cellucci noted at the morning meeting that Finneran had also approved soil removal and clean up as part of a bill authorizing state infrastructure funds for the Worcester Medical Center.

Birmingham, who after the morning meeting told reporters that ''I am not very hopeful' when asked to assess the chances of reaching an agreement, was in a much better mood last night, calling the deal ''a win mostly for the people of Massachusetts. It's a win for the fans of the Red Sox.''

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 7/26/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.



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