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Sox' Harrington seeks to reassure city on financing

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 7/9/2000

s the Red Sox continue their struggle to secure public funds for the team's proposed $627 million ballpark project, Red Sox chief John Harrington yesterday sought to allay concerns over whether the team will be able to privately finance its portion of the new Fenway Park. Harrington was responding to reports that Mayor Thomas M. Menino had asked the team for reassurances that the Red Sox will be able to pay for the $352 million ballpark and any construction cost overruns, as the team has pledged.

"I told the mayor on Friday that we are confident that we can privately finance the entire ballpark plus cost overruns," Harrington said. "Based on what he told me, I believe he was satisfied."

Menino was unavailable for comment yesterday, and a spokeswoman said the mayor "does not have any information that gives us cause for concern right now."

However, State House sources said that in recent weeks the city has raised questions with state leaders about whether the team can afford its portion of the project -- particularly if the state does not agree to fill a $30 million funding gap created when the city rejected key elements of the team's financing plan.

With just three weeks left before state lawmakers adjourn for the year, some state officials questioned the city's timing.

"The mayor seems to be the only one in the ballgame at this point," said Representative Michael J. Ruane, a Salem Democrat and head of the working group appointed by House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran to review the financing plans. "He directed the Red Sox to build on that site, and then came up short on his promise to help them fund the site acquisition and cleanup. And now with only 22 days left in the session and some tough budget battles on our hands, he's raising questions about the Red Sox part of the project instead of his own.

"I don't know what kind of game the city is playing, but it's not going to help them get the project done, if that's what they want," Ruane said.

State House leaders acknowledged that months ago, the team provided city and state officials with audited financial statements and an analysis of how new revenues generated by the new ballpark would service the team's debt on the project.

Some ballpark boosters suggest that the newly created funding gap and late-breaking questions about the team's ability to finance the project may be intended to trip up the Sox just as the team is poised to go to bat on Beacon Hill.

"Why didn't the mayor ask for more information months ago?" asked one business source who supports the ballpark bid. "At the very least, it's certainly a very curious timing."

This story ran on page B03 of the Boston Globe on 7/09/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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