Groups: No public funds for Sox plan
By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 01/20/00
Three groups opposed to the Boston Red Sox's plans to build a $600 million
ballpark went to the State House yesterday to urge lawmakers to vote against
investing public money in the project.
The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, a statewide consumer
advocacy organization, joined two longtime ballpark opponents, the Fenway
Action Coalition and Save Fenway Park, in denouncing possible public subsidies
for a new Fenway Park.
Arguing that the economic benefits of a ballpark have been exaggerated by
the team's boosters, the opponents noted that new stadium projects in some
other cities have failed to dramatically increase jobs and tax receipts as
Public investment in new sports facilities, the opponents said, comes at
the expense of other government-funded priorities such as education, health
care, and tax cuts.
"If this is about economic growth and jobs, then it's a no-brainer," said
MassPIRG spokesman Rob Sargent. "There are many, many more productive ways to
spend hundreds of millions of dollars to do that. . . . We've decided to weigh
in here to urge the Legislature to exercise some restraint."
To underscore the opponents' point, a member of Save Fenway Park dressed as
Santa Claus and distributed more than 200 copies of a book criticizing public
investments in professional sports teams to city and state lawmakers. The
book, titled "Field of Schemes," has become a bible for opponents of the new
ballpark. "This is a bad deal for taxpayers," Fenway Action Coalition member
Peter Catalano said as he prepared to drop off the books at lawmakers' offices
yesterday. "It's a bad deal for fans. And it's disastrous for the residents of
Boston, especially those who live in the Fenway area."
But the Red Sox say they are still developing their financing package, and
stressed they have not yet determined how much public investment they will
"We are engaged in a dialogue with public officials in order to demonstrate
that an appropriate level of public investment is justified by the benefits
that will be returned to the city, state, and Fenway area," said Red Sox
spokeswoman Kathryn St. John. "This is the beginning of a public process, and
there will be plenty of opportunity for input."
Red Sox chief executive John Harrington unveiled the plans for the
43,000-seat ballpark last April. But the team's role in hosting the 1999
All-Star Game and playoff bid, combined with the five-month state budget
stalemate on Beacon Hill and the ouster of former Boston Redevelopment
Authority chief Thomas N. O'Brien, derailed discussions about how much
taxpayers might invest in the project. Some observers wonder whether the
team's push to build a new stadium adjacent to the old ballpark has lost
The stadium is expected to bring a million more fans each year to the area.
According to team officials, about 30 percent of the fans will come from out
of state, generating net new revenues for the city and state.
The Red Sox denied published reports suggesting the team could ask for up
to $300 million in state and city aid. "While there have been some reports of
numbers, we have strongly pointed out those numbers are purely speculative,"
St. John said. "There is no number because we are still reviewing various
The team is not expected to detail its financing plan for another month or
two. The Red Sox are expected to seek at least $200 million to $250 million in