Team, hotel owner pursue land trade, parcels are a key Fenway plan
By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 04/05/00
Just days after Mayor Thomas M. Menino pressed the Boston Red Sox to team
up with two Fenway landowners in a new ballpark, the Red Sox are negotiating a
land swap with the owner of the Howard Johnson's Hotel on Boylston Street.
Terms of the deal still have to be hammered out with Robert Sage, owner of
But it appears that Sage may exchange his Boylston Street property for land
in the Fenway owned by the team - possibly on a parcel located in 88-year-old
Fenway Park's outfield that is not needed for the new ballpark.
If the team wins its bid to build a new Fenway Park - and that remains a
big if - Sage is expected to build a new hotel on the land he would acquire
from the Red Sox.
Sage will not get a stake in the team and appears unlikely to have a role
in the new ballpark, sources familiar with the talks said last night.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have also intensified talks with the D'Angelo
family, owners of the Twins souvenir shops along Yawkey Way, and others who
own property within the 14-acre footprint of the team's proposed ballpark,
business sources said.
The team's efforts appear to be aimed at accommodating Menino, who last
week stunned the Red Sox by publicly insisting on more private investment in a
ballpark. Menino also pressed the Sox to work out a deal with Sage and the
D'Angelo family, and ruled out the creation of a stadium authority to build
and own the new ballpark.
Clearly caught off guard by Menino's tough stance after months of
negotiations with the city, Red Sox chief executive John Harrington requested
a meeting with the mayor to discuss the city's concerns about the project. But
according to city officials, the mayor's schedule could not immediately
accommodate Harrington, who was left cooling his heels for a few days.
The two men are now scheduled to meet tomorrow.
Menino, however, did give the team a glimmer of hope. While not backing off
his demand the city be repaid for any investment it makes, he agreed that
increased property taxes generated by new development that is expected to
accompany the project could count toward his demand for a payback.
That agreement could be significant. If the city counts increased property
tax revenue in the Fenway area as a return on its investment, the team may not
need to identify a direct revenue stream for every dollar the city invests in
the project. A much smaller Fenway project proposed by developer Steve Samuels
next door to the new ballpark, for example, is expected to produce a net
increase of over $1 million in new tax revenue for the city.
Fenway Park and two other parcels owned by the Red Sox are assessed by the
city at $25.7 million, and generate tax payments of $880,000 a year.
But while Menino opened one financing door, he closed another yesterday.
The mayor said he was willing to use the city's bonding authority to acquire
the site, but clearly ruled out using bonds for construction.
"The city can help pay for the site as long as we have a revenue stream
that allows us to be paid back," Menino said. "But I don't want to use bonds
to build a new ballpark. There's a limit to how much we can bond and the city
has lots of other needs."
In the wake of Menino's comments, the Red Sox appear to anxious to cement
some agreements with Fenway landowners, particularly Sage and D'Angelo.
Parcels controlled by the two Fenway landowners represent roughly 30 percent
of the 14 acres needed for the team's $600 million project.
But like the new ballpark itself, the Sage/Sox land swap is far from a done
Sage and the Red Sox have signed only a "very general letter of agreement"
to "work together in good faith" toward an exchange of parcels, said sources
familiar with the negotiations. They have not agreed on the value of either
parcel, or any other terms of the proposed land swap, sources said.
It's unclear, for example, whether a cash payment will be involved by
either party, or if the Red Sox will simply take an option on Sage's parcel.
The team plans to build a parking garage, designed to serve the team and
some luxury box patrons, on the current HoJos site.
Sage did not return The Boston Globe's calls yesterday and the Red Sox
declined to comment.
Menino has been pushing the Red Sox to cut land acquisition costs, which he
estimated at $100 million. The team is expected to ask the city to help fund
the acquisition and cleanup of the site adjacent to Fenway Park.
While the Red Sox have not detailed their financing plan, Menino estimates
it will need up to $250 million in state and city investment in the project.
The team has scheduled additional meetings with the D'Angelos this week,
but does not appear to be close to reaching an agreement on acquiring the
roughly 2 1/2 acres owned by the family.
Nonetheless, Menino's sudden call for more private investment in the
project has ballpark boosters worried he is trying to kill the deal.
Yesterday some legislative leaders said they were puzzled by the mayor's
weekend switch in his position. Without the mayor's strong support for the
project, they said, it's unlikely a ballpark bill will be adopted before
lawmakers adjourn in July.