By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 6/21/2000
or the first time in six weeks, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino met with Red Sox chief John Harrington yesterday. According to sources, Menino reiterated his support for a new Fenway Park but admonished Harrington for the way the team has publicly pushed its plan.
The mayor called the hastily scheduled meeting, held at the Parkman House on Beacon Street. Worried about the tight legislative deadline for passing a new ballpark bill this year, Harrington had repeatedly requested an audience with the mayor.
According to sources, Menino expressed displeasure with Harrington for holding a press briefing last weekend to detail proposals for how the city might recoup its investment in the ballpark project.
Unhappy that the team was in his view attempting to pressure him through the media, Menino was also apparently upset with Harrington for commenting that he had been unable to reach the mayor for over a month.
Views differ on costs of landtaking for a new Fenway. C1.
''The mayor is in charge, and the clear message was there is a way to do get things done and a way to not get things done,'' said one source familiar with the discussions.
However, the mayor also offered Harrington some encouraging words, saying he wanted to try to get a ballpark deal done before the Legislature adjourns next month.
The team is asking lawmakers for $275 million in public funds for infrastructure and parking improvements as well as land acquisition. Any new taxes to help the city recover the costs of acquiring the proposed ballpark site would also require legislative approval.
According to the sources, who attended the meeting, there was no detailed discussion of the team's proposals for repaying the city. After the clear-the-air meeting, Menino indicated he would talk with Harrington again later this week, the sources said.
The Red Sox declined to comment last night, refusing even to confirm the meeting with Menino took place.
Harrington on Saturday suggested a series of surcharges and taxes he said would generate up to $20 million in annual revenues for the city - more than the $12 million a year the city would need to recoup its $140 million investment in acquiring the proposed new ballpark site in the Fenway.
Several hours before Harrington met with the mayor, the Red Sox learned that their proposal to preserve a portion of the current ballpark may have to be abandoned.
At a closed-door meeting with the team officials, House leaders yesterday ruled out the team's call for state funds to create a public park to preserve the infield of 88-year-old Fenway Park as a baseball shrine if a new ballpark is built nearby.
''We're willing to fund necessary infrastructure improvements, but Preservation Plaza does not meet our definition of infrastructure,'' said House Transportation Committee chairman Joseph C. Sullivan, a state representative from Braintree. ''The Red Sox will have to pay for that or find a private benefactor willing to fund it.''
Under the team's proposal, the state would spend about $10 million to create the two-acre park out of the infield and a slice of left field, with the Green Monster as a backdrop. The plan also calls for a Red Sox Hall of Fame, a museum and children's education center nearby.
The loss hits the Red Sox where it hurts most - with their fans. The team has touted its plan to preserve the current infield, which many fans regard as hallowed ground, to help overcome resistance to a new ballpark from Fenway Park devotees.
Sullivan also noted the House estimates the project will need more than double the amount of infrastructure funds the team requested. The tentative House plan calls for up to $26 million in roadwork. And because lawmakers took a wider view of the transportation needs in the Fenway, the House suggests up to $32 million in public transit improvements - roughly six times the amount the team included in its plan.
House Speaker Thomas Finneran has said the House is prepared to offer nearly $100 million in state infrastructure funds for the project. ''Infrastructure is normally the state's responsibility so we don't need a dime back for appropriate expenditures,'' Sullivan said.
The Red Sox also touted a new poll, conducted for the team by Harrison and Goldberg, the mayor's pollster, earlier this month suggesting voters support the new ballpark by a better than 2 to 1 margin. Other polls conducted for different clients over the past year indicated strong opposition to public investment in the project.
According to the Sox, the new poll shows the more voters learn about the team's financing proposals, the more they support the new ballpark.
This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 6/21/2000.
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