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Red Sox chief still optimistic on ballpark

Harrington looks ahead to negotiations

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 5/12/2000

ith only 80 days remaining for state lawmakers to consider a new Fenway Park bill this year, Boston Red Sox chief executive John Harrington yesterday offered a respectful, though unspecific, response to tough financing demands issued by Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

''We believe the mayor when he says he wants to get this deal done, and we look forward to our next meeting with city and state officials,'' Harrington said in a statement. ''The best plan is a plan we can all agree to in time for adequate public review and action in this legislative session.''

In an interview with The Boston Globe on Wednesday, Menino said he wanted to see the city get back virtually every dollar it spends to help build a new Fenway Park. Ballpark boosters say such a demand would make it impossible for the Red Sox to compete with other teams who use new revenues from their new ballparks to pay players' escalating salaries.

Menino also offered a series of new proposals, ranging from selling the team's Internet broadcast rights to the sale of stock in the Red Sox. The mayor said such steps could reduce the need for public funds by increasing private investment in the team's proposed $600 million ballpark project.

Harrington did not publicly respond to Menino's specific suggestions. But he made it clear that, despite the mayor's escalating demands, he's not giving up on negotiations with the city and state.

''We have always understood that the mayor's job is to protect the city and the taxpayers, and we respect that,'' Harrington said in his statement released last night. ''We're confident that the returns to the city and state will justify their respective investments. We are open to any plan that works for the city, the state, and the team.''

A team spokeswoman declined to elaborate on Harrington's written statement.

Responding to Menino's call for Major League Baseball to invest in a new Fenway Park, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said the league has already agreed to help. If the team builds a new ballpark, Selig said, the Red Sox will be able to retain millions of dollars a year they now pay in revenue sharing to poorer teams. The Red Sox, he suggested, could use those funds to help finance their portion of the project.

''The Red Sox have indicated they are willing to contribute more towards their new ballpark than any other team in the history of league has,'' Selig said.

Menino called for a 100 percent return on any city investment in a new ballpark. But Selig said that no team has ever been able to repay 100 percent of the public investment in a new stadium, unless the long-term increase in economic development and new taxes are factored in.

''That just isn't possible unless you consider all the real enonomic benefits a city gains from a hosting a team,'' Selig said. ''Boston clearly benefits from the Red Sox. The city hosted the All-Star Game last year, for example, and by their own accounting, the city garnered $75 to $80 million.''

The commissioner also responded to suggestions that some local would-be owners may be undermining the Red Sox's push for a new ballpark in the hopes that Harrington will grow frustrated and decide to sell the Sox before a new stadium hikes the team's price tag.

''If anybody thinks they can do an end run around John Harrington, they have to think again because the league won't allow that to happen,'' Selig said. ''The Red Sox are a model franchise and John Harrington commands enormous respect from other owners for how he runs his team and the energy and talent he devotes to helping the league address the many issues we face.''

State leaders could not be reached to comment on what may be the mayor's most ambitious proposal: asking the state to build a new off-ramp from the Massachusetts Turnpike as part of the new Fenway Park plan. Although the ramp would add $25 million to $100 million to the cost of the already record-setting project, Menino strenously denied he is trying to block progress on a new ballpark by adding expensive accessories to the team's plan.

This story ran on page E01 of the Boston Globe on 5/12/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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