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Plan eyed to rebuild Fenway in place

Sox bidders would avoid landtakings

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 6/14/2001

As they prepare to review the Red Sox's confidential financial records, several prospective bidders are also studying plans to rebuild Fenway Park on its current site.

One group of bidders, led by television producer Tom Werner and former skiing company executive Les Otten, has spent more than six months developing plans that call for a new and expanded Fenway Park on its current footprint. The proposal calls for additional luxury boxes and club seats, and three-tiered stands that would be cantilevered in the outfield, over Lansdowne Street.

''We fully support [chief executive] John Harrington's assessment that the Red Sox need a larger, more modern faciilty to serve fans and continue to compete in the future,'' Werner said. ''We've done a lot of homework on this and believe we have come up a plan that keeps what is so special about Fenway Park ... but adds what's needed by today's team.''

Because the city would not have to seize 10 acres of privately owned land next door - as envisioned in the ballpark law the Legislature passed last year - the Werner group would avoid lengthy and expensive legal battles with landowners who don't want their property taken by eminent domain. If the group wins the bidding war for the Red Sox, the plan could also help assuage fans who are alienated by the prospect of moving the team from the field where the franchise has played since 1912.

''We believe it's possible to achieve this without ever touching the Green Monster or moving one ounce of dirt in the infield,'' Otten said.

The two partners declined to detail the plan, created by Boston-based architects Ben Wood and Carlos Zapata. While Werner's group and several others have won approval by Major League Baseball to examine the Red Sox's financial statements, it will be months before Harrington picks the prospective buyers who will be allowed to submit binding bids. Under terms of the Yawkey Trust, Harrington has a duty to get the most money he can for the team.

Sources said the Werner group and their representatives have begun making presentations to political and business leaders. The group also includes Maine resident David Hawkes, a former partner at the accounting firm Peat, Marwick. Former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, now an investment banker in New York, is an adviser and supporter, Werner and Otten said.

They did not rule out the idea that other investors may join the group before it bids later this year, but both men said they already have enough funds to compete.

''We've spent a lot of time looking for a solution to the ballpark problem because it will have a big impact on the team's future,'' Werner said. ''Our intent wasn't to create a laundry list of investors and make a splash that way, but to create a viable business plan that would ensure we could build a new ballpark and meet payroll. We think we have done that, and we have the resources we need to do it.''

None of the prospective bidders will publicly discuss how much they may be willing to pay for the Yawkey Trust's controlling interest in the Red Sox, Fenway Park, and the team's stake in New England Sports Network.

Sports financing specialists predict the sale could set a record, garnering $400 million or more.

The Werner plan calls for the team to build a larger ballpark around the present infield, in the off-season, over three or four years. By carefully sequencing the reconstruction, the group says, it can create a modern ballpark without moving the team during construction.

Underscoring their investment, Werner and Otten have hired a slew of stadium construction specialists, including contractors Barton-Malow, who are part of the team building CMGI Field in Foxborough for the New England Patriots.

Werner and Otten stressed their proposal is ''very different'' from the renovation plan presented by the group Save Fenway Park. They insist that while they were focused on preserving Fenway's link with the past, their plan also will produce enough new revenue to allow the Red Sox to remain competitive with other Major League teams that have built new facilities.

Last year, after reviewing the Save Fenway Park plan, the Red Sox and advisers to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino rejected it, saying it was too costly and did not deliver all the amenities the team needs. Team and city officials estimated that Save Fenway's proposal would add up to $100 million to the cost of the new ballpark and create major logistical barriers to completing the construction on time.

Werner is cofounder of the lucrative television production company Carsey-Werner, which produced such hits as ''The Cosby Show,'' ''Roseanne,'' and ''Third Rock from the Sun.'' A former ABC-TV producer and Harvard University graduate, Werner is based in Los Angeles but spends considerable time on the East Coast. He also is the former managing partner of the San Diego Padres.

Otten, founder of American Skiing Co., is known for his marketing and entrepreneurial skills, which he used to create the largest US ski operation. But he expanded too rapidly and was caught off guard by several seasons of bad weather, leaving the company with a mountain of debt. The company foundered, and earlier this year Otten resigned as chairman and CEO.

Several other bidders also may be considering plans to rebuild Fenway Park on the current site.

Sources said Charles F. Dolan, chairman of Cablevision Systems Corp., and a group led by Boston Concessions executive Joseph O'Donnell and developer Steve Karp are among those reviewing plans to renovate or expand the existing park.

Noting that no one has seen the team's financial records yet, a spokeswoman for Dolan declined to comment, suggesting it was too early to speculate on the TV executive's possible plans. Neither O'Donnell nor Karp could be reached for comment.

Others approved to inspect the team's financial data include:

Delaware North chief Jeremy Jacobs, who also owns the Boston Bruins and the FleetCenter.

EMC Corp. cofounder and billionaire Roger Marino.

Philadelphia-based concessionaire Aramark Corp., which holds the concessions contract at Fenway Park and is one of the team's largest limited partners.

Meg Vaillancourt can be reached by e-mail at vaillancourt@globe.com.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 6/14/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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