By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, 05/23/00
BOSTON - House Speaker Thomas Finneran on Tuesday increased pressure on the Red Sox, saying the state should get 100 percent of parking revenues from two proposed garages key to the new Fenway Park proposal.
"It would be highly inappropriate for the state to build these garages and then surrender the revenue that is generated by those garages,'' Finneran said. "If the state is in it for 100 percent of the financing, it should get 100 percent of the revenues.''
Finneran also said the team underestimated the cost of proposed road and subway improvements near the park. The team put the cost at $53 million. The true cost is closer to $100 million, according to Finneran.
Because the road and subway improvements are infrastructure improvements to publicly owned property, the state should pick up all of the cost of that construction, Finneran said.
"The team could count on the House to step to the plate and take that on with no expectation of payback,'' Finneran said.
The higher estimate boosts the price tag of the Fenway Park project from $627 million to more than $670 million.
Under a proposal unveiled by the team last week, state taxpayers would foot both the $53 million in roads and subway improvements and the $82 million construction bill for the two garages. The Red Sox and the state would then split the garage revenues for 30 years.
The Red Sox -- who are asking the city of Boston for an additional $140 million -- cited those parking fees as a source of revenue for the new $352 million park itself.
Finneran's proposal is "pretty consistent with the conversations that we've had'' with lawmakers, according to Red Sox spokeswoman Kathryn St. John.
"We will look at and consider any options that our elected officials want us to review,'' St. John said. "Everything is on the table, we appreciate that everyone is focussing on the project.''
The team already owns part of the land where the garages would be built. The team estimates the value of that land at $1.5 million. Under both plans -- the Red Sox' and Finneran's -- the state would ultimately own the garages.
Gov. Paul Cellucci, a vocal proponent of the new ballpark, said he would support plans to share revenues from the garages.
"I've always said that if we could share the revenues from the parking garage with the state and the city and the Red Sox we should be able to put this deal together,'' Cellucci said Tuesday.
The team should look to other sources beyond the state for financial help, including Major League Baseball, Finneran added.
Finneran's comments come a day before a planned legislative House caucus to review the Fenway financing proposal. The team hopes to have a financing plan approved by the state Legislature before the end of July.
Finneran is a key player in those talks. During the negotiations to build a new Foxboro Stadium two years ago, Finneran refused to spend public money on anything other than what he considered public infrastructure.
Under that deal, the state committed itself to spending $70 million, about half of what the Red Sox are asking.
Finneran said a plan could be approved by the end of July, assuming the House's concerns are considered in the final version of the deal. He rejected critics who say too much of the negotiations have taken place behind closed doors.
"Nothing's been decided,'' he said. "No one's filed legislation yet. How can you have a (public) hearing about a discussion?''
If the deal is going to get done, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Senate President Thomas Birmingham and Finneran should sit down with him and hammer out an agreement, Cellucci said.
"The mayor has problems. The speaker has problems. Let's get in a room together and try to work it out,'' Cellucci said.