Red Sox stress goal to keep Fenway name
By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 04/06/00
Under pressure to find more private financing for a new Fenway Park, the
Boston Red Sox stressed that their goal is to keep naming rights off the
"Nothing has changed," said team spokeswoman Kathryn St. John. "It's always
been our strong desire to retain the name Fenway Park. We don't want to go to
naming rights and our fans don't want it."
Mindful of the team's expected bid for up to $250 million in public
investment in the $600 million ballpark project, the Red Sox's precisely
worded statement was also designed not to alienate legislative leaders - and
to leave the team wiggle room. "But we will consider any proposal our elected
officials want us to review," St. John added.
With opening day just around the corner, it appears few political leaders
want to risk Red Sox fans' ire by publicly insisting that the team remove the
Fenway Park name from its proposed new ballpark.
"I like the name Fenway Park, and I'd like them to keep it," said Governor
Paul Cellucci. "But if they need to sell the naming rights, that's a decision
they will have to make."
House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, a key opponent of public subsidies for
professional sports teams, didn't rule out the idea, nor did he demand the
team sell the rights.
Instead he suggested that as long as the Red Sox limit their request for
state funds to infrastructure, it was up to them to decide whether they need
to call the new ballpark something other than Fenway Park.
Finneran, however, made it clear he will limit what qualifies for
infrastructure aid. Requests to improve surrounding roads, lighting, utility
service, subway, commuter rail, and flood control could qualify for state
funds, he said. But he stopped short of endorsing state aid to preserve the
infield of 89-year-old Fenway Park as a public park.
Asked whether the two proposed garages included in the team's plan would
count as "infrastructure," Finneran was skeptical but did not reject the idea.
"That's a little bit of a reach," he said.
The team estimates it will cost $90 million to build the two garages, and
since they will be used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, they're considered to
be the cash cows of the Sox ballpark project. Yesterday Finneran left himself
negotiating room by declining to rule out some state investment. Whoever
invests in the garages "should control the proceeds from them," he said.
As the Globe has reported, sports financing analysts estimate that the Red
Sox could raise up to $100 million by selling naming rights, but the local
analysts argue the expected backlash of a name change would substantially
reduce the value.
Red Sox chief John Harrington is slated to meet with Mayor Thomas M. Menino
today to discuss how the city might help by acquiring the 14-acre ballpark
site. It's the first meeting since the mayor stunned the team by proposing
that Major League Baseball invest up to $8 million in the project and by
ruling out a new stadium authority to build and own the new ballpark. The Sox
were already discussing a possible landswap with a Fenway hotelier prior to
Menino's coments, but intensified negotiations with landowners following his
remarks. No land deals have been finalized.