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Fenway scratch ticket floated as funding plan

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 6/28/2000

ith the crucial question of how to finance a new Fenway Park in doubt and five weeks remaining in the current legislative session, a number of parties are rushing in with funding proposals.

At a City Council hearing today, District Councilor Paul Scapicchio is slated to propose a plan calling for the city to be repaid in part through sales of a special scratch lottery ticket.

Scapicchio's proposal comes as Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Red Sox continue their talks to break an impasse on funding for the project. Both sides declined to comment yesterday on whether any progress had been made toward an agreement on how the city can recoup its investment in the project.

State lawmakers, who would have to approve any diversion of state lottery revenues, showed little enthusiasm for Scapicchio's idea yesterday.

''It's not going to happen,'' sniffed one legislative leader involved in the ballpark financing talks. ''It's not even on the radar screen.''

Defending the idea, Scapicchio noted that Maryland financed Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, in part through the sale of new sports lottery tickets, and here in Massachusetts, a limited edition $10 Millennium scratch ticket, which offered record cash prizes, generated about $30 million in additional local aid for the state's cities and towns.

He estimated a similar special-edition Fenway Park scratch ticket would produce tens of millions of dollars in revenues, which could be used to defray the $140 million the city would have to spend to acquire the proposed 15-acre ballpark site.

''Since no one would be forced to buy a ticket, no one would have to pay for the ballpark unless they wanted to,'' Scapicchio said yesterday. ''Seems to me, it's a win for everyone.''

Scapicchio and fellow City Councilor Stephen Murphy paid a designer to create a mock-up of the ticket, with pictures of the old and new Fenway Park and the Green Monster. The prototype is intended to bolster interest in the idea at today's hearing, where Scapicchio will push a resolution urging state lawmakers to consider creating a ballpark lottery game.

But State House leaders dismissed the concept as ''politically unpalatable,'' noting that lottery revenues are used to fund basic services in every city and town. Since new lottery games tend to cannibalize old ones, players who buy a special ballpark scratch ticket won't buy other tickets that currently generate crucial local aid funds.

''I think it would be controversial since the money is already promised to help fund local schools, fire, and police,'' said state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien. ''Of course, the Legislature can direct us [to earmark lottery revenues for a new ballpark], but I don't know anyone who is arguing that cities and towns need less money for fire and police.''

Wary of such criticism, Scapicchio suggested the ballpark ticket could offer nonmonetary prizes, such as the chance to throw out the first pitch in the new ballpark, a fantasy game with a favorite Red Sox player, or season tickets. But according to lottery records, games that offer noncash prizes have traditionally been among the least successful revenue-generators.

Meanwhile, Fenway activists charged with guiding the city's planning process gave the team a lift by refusing to suspend their deliberations until after state lawmakers adjourn for the year on July 31.

Members of the Fenway Planning Task Force, appointed by Menino, rejected a plea to wait until after alternative plans could be vetted at a design symposium tentatively scheduled for August. Since the symposium is being organized by two strong opponents of the Red Sox plan - Fenway Community Development Corp. and Save Fenway Park - ballpark boosters feared state lawmakers would interpret the delay as a mark of communitywide opposition to the project, possibly discouraging legislators from taking up a ballpark bill this year.

''If they want to have their symposium, more power to them,'' said Joe Barton, chairman of the task force. ''But that doesn't mean we have to stop what we're doing. We are moving forward. ... We want to see if the team is prepared to adequately address our concerns.''

This story ran on page C7 of the Boston Globe on 6/28/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.


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