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Critics of Red Sox ballpark plan propose alternative design study

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 6/27/2000

ith Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Red Sox expected to continue their make-or-break ballpark negotiations today, critics yesterday urged the Red Sox to build their new home on the current Fenway Park site, instead of next door as the team has proposed.

Both Menino and the Red Sox ruled out a similar rebuilding plan last year, arguing the costs associated with phased reconstruction would be higher than building a new ballpark.

''The mayor is focused on the Red Sox proposal, and financing talks with the team are continuing,'' mayoral spokeswoman Carol Brennan said yesterday.

Undeterred, Fenway District City Councilor Michael Ross, two Fenway community groups, and a handful of other city and state officials announced yesterday that they are planning a 10-day symposium in August to create an alternative design for a ballpark built around the infield of 88-year-old Fenway Park.

The group argued that the city could save up to $140 million in land acquisition costs and avoid expensive legal battles with Fenway landowners whose property would have to be seized under the Red Sox plan.

''This would be an entirely new design,'' said Dan Wilson of Save Fenway Park. ''And we are leaving open the question of how many seats the new ballpark should have, which could substantially reduce or eliminate the need for landtakings and expensive garages.''

Added Carl Koechlin of the Fenway Community Development Corp.: ''As a neighborhood we are willing to roll up our sleeves and make this happen.''

Yesterday's announcement highlighted the deep divisions within the Fenway neighborhood. Fenway activists who support the new ballpark were furious, noting they have already spent a year developing a new planning process for the area. At the same time, residents who want the Red Sox to leave the neighborhood assailed Ross and the community development corp. for conceding a new ballpark could be built in the Fenway.

''It's a sham to say the community is behind the idea of renovating Fenway Park,'' scoffed Peter Catalano of the Fenway Action Coalition. The community development corp. ''wants a new ballpark in the Fenway because they want the linkage money they expect to come with it. The idea is just a distraction.''

City Hall sources said Menino's chief of staff, James Rooney, and Boston Redevelopment Authority chief Mark Maloney met with the group proposing the design study yesterday ''as a courtesy,'' but said the city is not reviewing the plan.

The Red Sox declined to comment on a new design proposal.

While several alternative sites have surfaced in recent days, analysts argue that the last-minute pitch to switch sites is intended to derail the team's momentum on Beacon Hill, where lawmakers are slated to adjourn next month.

With Governor Paul Cellucci moving to schedule another ballpark summit, negotiations between the city and the Red Sox over how to finance the new ballpark have intensified. Menino insists the Sox guarantee the city can recoup its investment in the project, but he has rejected several of the team's payback proposals. Sorting through how to win his approval is the crux of the current talks.

''I'm positive about the prospects for an agreement,'' Menino said this weekend.''There are still some significant pieces to the puzzle missing. How the city can get paid back is one big piece. But I remain optimistic.''

This story ran on page E15 of the Boston Globe on 6/27/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.


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