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Announcement fuels opposition to new park

By Tina Cassidy and Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff, 10/7/2000

he sale of the Red Sox could change more than just the ownership of the legendary franchise - it could devastate the team's chances of building a new ballpark in the Fenway.

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 SOX OWNERSHIP

SOX UNDER YAWKEY TRUST
2090 wins, 1836 losses
6 playoff appearances
4 division titles
8 different managers
   - Jimy Williams (1997-pres.)
   - Kevin Kennedy (1995-96)
   - Butch Hobson (1992-94)
   - Joe Morgan (1988-91)
   - John McNamara (1985-87)
   - Ralph Houk (1981-84)
   - John Pesky (1980)
   - Don Zimmer (1976-80)

PAST RED SOX OWNERS
1994-2000 - Jean R. Yawkey Trust (CEO John Harrington)

1987-93 - Jean R. Yawkey Trust, Haywood Sullivan

1981-86 - Jean R. Yawkey Trust, Haywood Sullivan, Edward G. LeRoux, Jr.

1978-80 - JRY-Corp., Jean R. Yawkey, Haywood Sullivan, Edward G. LeRoux, Jr.

1933-76 - Thomas A. Yawkey
1923-33 - J.A. Rovert Quinn
1917-23 - Harry Frazee
1913-16 - Joseph Lannin
1912-13 - James McAleer
1904-11 - John I. Taylor
1903-04 - Henry J. Killilea
1901-02 - Charles Somers

   

Within moments of John Harrington's announcement that he was selling the team, some city and state leaders called for scrapping the $312 million public financing package to replace Fenway Park.

''If somebody like Bill Gates comes in here and buys them and has more money than the state budget, why would we want to give them anything?'' said City Councilor at Large Stephen J. Murphy. ''For me it changes the equation.''

Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Governor Paul Cellucci, and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran support the terms of the legislation, and appear determined to try to preserve it. But the deal could begin to crumble as early as next week during debates in the House and City Council.

House members are scheduled to meet Tuesday at an informal session during which Democratic state Representative Byron Rushing, who represents the Fenway, said he will try to impose a deadline by which the public funds must be used. And the City Council, which has the power to block the funds, could take up the issue as early as Wednesday.

Other opponents are holding out hope that another owner would not want to build a park in the Fenway, where land costs and neighborhood opposition are high.

''Life would be a lot easier for a new owner to sell their assets in the Fenway and build on cheaper land elsewhere in the region, close by,'' said ballpark opponent Peter Catalano of the Fenway Action Coalition.

In addition to concerns about the city's investment in the deal - $140 million in site acquisition and cleanup and $72 million for a parking garage - some city councilors are wary of taking private landowners' property for use by the ballclub.

The state has committed to spending $100 million for infrastructure for the new park, and Cellucci said there is no reason to rethink that agreement if someone else buys the team.

''I really don't see this as a time for major changes,'' Cellucci said. ''I think this is the best the city and the state could do. I think it's fair. I don't think we should go back to the drawing board.''

Menino, who carried a bat over his shoulder as he walked into his press conference, also defended the financing package, saying it ''wasn't a giveaway.''

But before Harrington's announcement, seven of the 13 City Council members were opposed to the package, which needs at least nine votes for approval. And yesterday's news only drew more criticism.

Councilor at Large Michael Flaherty, who had been one of the six undecided councilors, said he would not vote for the plan until he knew who the owner of the team would be.

''It would be irresponsible and reckless to turn around and commit public financing to a new stadium today, only to find out tomorrow the team's being purchased by an Internet multibillionaire. All bets are off,'' said Flaherty.

Two others who had been publicly undecided, Councilor Daniel F. Conley (Hyde Park) and Councilor Brian Honan (Allston-Brighton), both were concerned about Harrington's suggestion during yesterday's press conference that public money should be used to cover any project overruns. That, they said, would be a deal-breaker.

Conley also said the public has been willing to help the Red Sox because the Yawkey charitable trust, which owns the team, has been very generous. Harrington did not reveal how much the team is seeking in the sale, but said the amount would be significant.

''Mr. Deep Pockets is going to come in, and why should we allow that individual to maximize their profits on the backs of the taxpayers?'' Conley asked.

Murphy said he has not decided how he will vote, but he said the financial resources of the new owner should be taken into account.

The reactions yesterday exposed some confusion surrounding the sale. Menino said it was unclear whether the existing ballpark agreement would even be a contingency of the sale. However, the mayor said the City Council's vote would likely be delayed by the sale, and put off until private financing is secured. Conversely, councilors warned that potential buyers and lenders should not move forward with the assumption that the project will win their approval.

Some councilors are also concerned that the sale means the team will no longer be owned by a charity.

''We're not talking about a nonprofit organization. We're talking about even more of a business, more dollars available from a private entity. That would, of course, require a significant change on the part of the public's investment,'' said City Councilor Michael Ross (Fenway).

Several councilors bristled at Harrington's lack of attention to their opposition. When Harrington presented news of the sale, he strongly suggested all government approvals were in place, despite the fact that the council has the last word in approving the city financing and land acquisition, and that there may be enough members deciding to block the plan.

''Giving [a new owner] a purchase and sale with the right to do battle with the City Council could be a daunting task,'' Honan said.

Rushing, who represents the Fenway, said he will try to impose a December deadline for the team to secure construction financing, after which the legislation would expire. Such an arrangement could complicate the deal for a prospective owner.

''I don't think they should be able to carry around this legislation in their back pockets as they go to banks [looking for construction financing] for the next decade,'' Rushing said. ''The pricetag [for buying the team] will be higher because this is in effect.''

On Thursday, Rushing blocked approval of technical amendments to the bill, saying action on them should be delayed until January.

However, Finneran said the terms of the deal should not change, regardless of how much money the new owner has.

''That's one of the reasons why we limited ourselves just to [paying for] the public realm of infrastructure,'' Finneran said.

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 10/7/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.



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