Boston officials, speculating that millions would flood the city for a Red Sox parade if the team wins the World Series, are already planning a route that could stretch for miles, from outlying neighborhoods to the heart of the city.
Any parade celebrating the end to the 86-year-old World Series victory drought would draw crowds that would dwarf February's Super Bowl procession that packed an estimated 1.5 million into Boston's narrow downtown streets, from Copley Square to City Hall, the officials said. They are planning an extended route that, according to one city official involved in the process, would begin ''way out there," in order to spread out revelers.
''It would give the kids some place to go other than downtown," said the official. One route under consideration would begin near Boston College in Brighton.
Planners, worried about managing huge crowds downtown, considered eliminating stops like the New England Patriots' appearance at City Hall Plaza earlier this year, where a sea of screaming fans stood shoulder to shoulder. Eighty-seven were treated for problems from acute anxiety to severe alcohol intoxication.
But planners dispensed with the nonstop idea and made arrangements to erect a stage on City Hall Plaza, along with portable restrooms.
''The Patriots parade was insane," said Councilor John Tobin. ''I shudder to think what this will be like. I wouldn't want to work in special events or be part of that planning process. It's not an enviable position to be in. I don't know how you plan for something like that."
Publicly, Mayor Thomas M. Menino is keeping a low profile about parade plans, saying he doesn't want to jinx the team's chances.
''Mayor Menino is taking this one game at a time," said his spokesman, Seth Gitell. ''That's how the Red Sox came back from an unprecedented three-game deficit against the Yankees, and that's how the Patriots have won 21 consecutive games."
Behind the scenes, officials have been plotting schedules, forecasting the day a parade would be held. If the Red Sox sweep the series, the parade would probably be held on Friday, planning officials said. If the team wins on Thursday, the parade would probably be on Saturday.
But after that, parade scheduling would be complicated by other events. Officials have ruled out a parade on Sunday, which is Halloween, and on Tuesday, Election Day. Police will be working at the polls, and Senator John F. Kerry is planning a celebration in Copley Square that night.
If the Sox clinched on Saturday, the celebration would probably be on Monday, officials said. But if the series went to a seventh game, the timing is less certain. Officials had initially leaned against holding a Wednesday parade because of a Police Department rule barring officers from working more than 16 consecutive hours, which could come into play for officers the day after many work at the polls.
Thursday might be unattractive to some Red Sox players, who may want to go home for the winter after a Sunday victory. A city official said that Thursday remains the city's first choice.
With input from the team, the city's special events committee will make a recommendation to Menino, who makes the final decision.
Like February's Super Bowl parade, a Red Sox victory parade would take place after the death of a fan in post-game revelry. Stung by criticism over the death of Victoria Snelgrove, an Emerson College student killed by a pepper pellet after the Red Sox clinched the American League pennant, police would probably to be out in force for a parade.
Boston police officials said they may recruit additional officers from departments in neighboring towns.
If a victory parade goes forward, Menino's office would be responsible for finding ways to fund it. February's event cost $465,000, with the city paying 44 percent and corporate sponsors picking up the rest.
Red Sox officials are staying silent on any parade planning, just as the Patriots were before recent Super Bowls.
''On the list of taboos, that's right up there at the top," said Stacey James, a spokesman for the Patriots. ''It's better that nobody even knows that a discussion like that has even taken place."
That may be especially true in the case of the Red Sox, who have made a habit over the years of collapsing in spectacular fashion.
''We, of course, are focused solely on Game 3 here in St. Louis," Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg said.