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Menino seen willing to raise Fenway aid

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 7/8/2000

s city and Red Sox officials continue talks on how to finance a new Fenway Park, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino has told the team he's willing to provide an additional $10 million in city aid for the project if land acquisition costs for a new ballpark exceed $110 million, sources close to the talks said yesterday. The offer means the city could fund up to $120 million of the team's proposed $627 million project.

But sources said that Menino stipulated that the extra $10 million can be used only to buy the 10 acres of privately owned property and relocate businesses within the proposed ballpark's footprint, not for cleaning up the site.

"It's a form of risk-sharing," one source said. "It's contingency financing meant to try and move the project along. But there are strings attached. It's for site acquisition only."

The team has estimated that it would cost $90 million to acquire the site next door to Fenway Park and about $50 million to clean the site up and prepare it for construction of a 44,000-seat ballpark. The Red Sox had asked the city to assume the cost of both items, which the team suggested would require the city to provide about $140 million.

But Menino balked at the idea, noting that would leave the city with no way to cap its investment in the project. The cost of either buying the land or cleaning it up could exceed the team's estimated price tag, city officials said.

Instead, Menino set clear limits on the city's investment in the project, saying he was willing to offer only $110 million, with the additional $10 million as "insurance" in case buying the land proved more expensive than the team had estimated.

Talks between city and team officials continued yesterday, but the Red Sox have not accepted or rejected the city's financing proposal. Anxious not to offend the mayor, Harrington said he is willing to "work with" Menino's offer, but both sides agreed last night that they do not have a deal yet.

"We understand that there can be no agreement until we have the revenue streams needed to recoup the city's investment in the project, and that we need the state to get them," Menino said last night. "We hope to have more detailed talks with the state next week."

City officials were careful to keep state leaders in the loop this week. Menino talked with Governor Paul Cellucci yesterday and, according to State House sources, he and his chief of staff, James Rooney, met with House Speaker Thomas Finneran on Thursday to keep the State House leaders informed on the progress of financing talks between the Sox and the city.

The state's role is crucial because the mayor needs legislative approval for the taxes and fees required to meet his demand for 100 percent payback on the city's investment in the project. Although three weeks remain before lawmakers adjourn for the year, the city has not requested specific revenue streams from the state yet.

"With the state budget battle unresolved, it may be too late to deal with this year," said one State House source. "We are only now learning what the city wants and is prepared to do."

This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 7/8/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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