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Mayor says Sox talks progressing

Calls discussions 'positive,' but there's no ballpark deal yet

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 6/23/2000

or the second time this week, Mayor Thomas M. Menino met yesterday with Red Sox officials to discuss the team's proposed $627 million ballpark project, but while both sides said the discussions were ''positive,'' no agreements were reached on the team's pitch for city funds.

''We're making progress, but there's no deal yet,'' Menino said following the meeting at the Parkman House. ''We're going to continue our talks over the next few days and we hope we can get some kind of an agreement soon.''

Red Sox chief John Harrington was unable to attend yesterday's session because of a scheduling conflict, team officials said, so the team's delegation was led by general manager Dan Duquette, who has increasingly become the public pitchman for the new ballpark.

Menino, however, made it clear he was not offended by Harrington's absence yesterday.

''Everyone's got a busy schedule and sometimes it's hard to rearrange things so everyone can be at the table every time,'' Menino said. ''It wasn't a problem.''

Emerging from the 11/2-hour meeting, Duquette said the team remains hopeful a financing agreement can be reached within the next few weeks.

''We're continuing our financing discussions with the city so we can reach a resolution and get a new ballpark bill passed before July 31,'' Duquette said.

Menino led the discussions yesterday and was backed up by his chief of staff, James Rooney, who has been the city's point man on the ballpark talks, and Ed Collins, the city's chief financial officer. But there was also a new face at the negotiating table for the city: Harvard University vice president Paul Grogan.

An aide to former mayors Kevin H. White and Raymond L. Flynn, Grogan is now in charge of governmental affairs and community relations for Harvard. An informal adviser to Menino, he is one of several business leaders the mayor has consulted over the past few months to help him shape a deal.

Grogan was the first to walk through the front door of the city-owned Parkman

House for yesterday's ballpark talks, but was unavailable for comment last night.

The Red Sox negotiating team, who arrived together in a baby blue Mercury Grand Marquis, included Duquette, team vice president James Healey, chief financial officer Robert Furbush, and development consultant Robert F. Walsh, who has also served as the team's liaison with the city. The Red Sox's key political consultant, John Sasso, who has led the team's efforts on Beacon Hill but not at City Hall, was not present.

Yesterday's talks represent a re-start of negotiations following a breakdown in communications between the city and the Red Sox. Prior to this week, Menino and Harrington had not met for almost six weeks.

As the Globe reported, Menino summoned Harrington to a hastily scheduled meeting on Tuesday and admonished him for how the team was pressing its case through the media. Menino also said he supported the team's bid for a new ballpark, and the two sides agreed to continue negotiations.

Given the hiatus that had occurred, yesterday's talks were more of review on what still separates the two sides than a detailed negotiation session.

The team is asking the city to spend $140 million or more on land acquisition and cleanup costs for the new ballpark site adjacent to Fenway Park. State leaders have already agreed to provide up to $100 million in infrastructure aid for the project, so the city's demand for 100 percent payback on its investment has become the crux of stalled negotiations.

With less than six weeks left before state lawmakers adjourn until 2001, the Red Sox are racing the clock to convince Menino that their plan allows the city to recoup its investment in the project.

Critics argue that as a result of escalating land values in the Fenway, the cost for acquiring the proposed ballpark site will be too expensive for the city's taxpayers to bear. In recent weeks, a number of alternative sites, many of which were raised and rejected in the past, have resurfaced.

Among the most frequently mentioned backup sites: the South Boston Waterfront, including parcels owned by developer Frank McCourt or on city-owned land; on turnpike air rights in the Fenway; on the former city incinerator site off the Southeast Expressway; and at the Allston rail yards site near the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Cambridge border.

The Turnpike Authority recently put more than 40 acres at the Allston rail yards site up for sale, and as the Globe has reported, both Harvard and Boston University have been eyeing the site. Although the parcel has excellent highway access, the CSX railway has an easement across the site that lasts for another 50 years. Both the city and the Red Sox insist the team will remain in the Fenway and there was no discussion of alternative sites at yesterday's talks.

This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 6/23/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.


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