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Cellucci plan would limit funds to Sox

City control of parking fees eyed

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 7/21/2000

day after Mayor Thomas M. Menino unveiled his financing plan for a new Fenway Park, Governor Paul Cellucci yesterday proposed an alternative scheme that would repay the city's investment but could leave the Red Sox without the $7 million a year in parking revenues the team is seeking to help it finance the ballpark. In a potential boost to the city, Cellucci's plan includes $28 million in site cleanup costs as part of a $100 million infrastructure package. The plan would also use game day parking surcharges and hotel taxes to raise $4 million to $6 million in revenues to help the city recoup its investment in the project.

But Cellucci's plan calls for the city to retain all of the roughly $13 million a year in parking revenues generated by a city-owned garage included in the project, rather than share the money with the team.

Cellucci argued that his proposal brought the state, city, and team officials closer to a ballpark financing deal. "I'd say we're on third base and all we need now is a suicide squeeze to get us home," Cellucci said.

But Menino responded coolly to the plan. "If the governor has a financially and politically feasible plan that does not jeopardize the Sox's ability to fund the construction of their stadium, we'll be happy to listen," he said. "I'm confident what the city has proposed is a sensible and workable plan."

Cellucci's proposal seemed to stun the Red Sox. Supporters of a new ballpark note that while Cellucci's plan requires the team to assume the most risky elements of the project, including cost overruns for ballpark construction, site acquisition, and cleanup, it effectively denies the team crucial parking revenues. In the past, Cellucci had acknowledged the team's need for parking revenues.

Although team representatives expressed "appreciation" for the efforts by Cellucci and other political leaders to forge a deal, their comments sounded a note of despair.

"We have made it clear from day one that we can only finance the $352 million to build the ballpark itself and any ballpark cost overruns," said Kathyrn St. John, a spokeswoman for the team. "Our hope is that city and state leaders will meet soon to address the remaining issues."

Sources familiar with the talks between the city and state offered a bleaker assessment. "This doesn't solve anything," said one source, referring to Cellucci's plan. "It's a way of surgically killing the project without leaving the governor's fingerprints on the knife."

Yesterday, however, Cellucci stressed that he remains open to negotiations. Supporters also argued the Sox funding gap is not a terminal problem. "When you have a $627 million project, it's not going to die over $7 million in parking fees," said one source. "The differences can be resolved."

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran did not return calls seeking comment yesterday, but many observers expect that he will object to the idea of using state funds for cleaning up the site.

Finneran met with Menino at Parkman House yesterday morning but both declined comment on the talks. According to sources, Finneran expressed reservations about Menino's proposed citywide parking fee. On Wednesday, the mayor suggested the fee could be used to repay the $140 million the city would spend to acquire privately owned land in the Fenway for the new ballpark. Cellucci immediately pledged to veto it.

With 10 days left in the legislative session, the release of Menino's and Cellucci's competing plans casts doubt on whether enough time remains to pass a ballpark financing plan this year. Finneran is also expected to announce his position on the various proposals soon. In the past, he has suggested that user fees such as ticket surcharges could help fund the project.

Under Menino's plan, the city would use $6 million a year in parking revenues to pay for the garage and give the Red Sox $7 million a year. The team has said that without these revenues it cannot finance the $352 million to build the ballpark.

Cellucci said that Menino could still choose to share parking revenues with the team. But Cellucci's plan assumes Menino would use the $7 million -- plus the game day surcharges and hotel taxes -- to raise the $11 million a year the city needs to cover the debt service on acquiring the ballpark site.

If Menino does share the revenues, however, Cellucci said the state would provide no additional funds to replace that money.

Other proposals the Red Sox could use to help raise the $7 million include a $1 ticket surcharge and 10 percent surcharge on luxury boxes in the new ballpark. But the team has been reluctant to adopt those measures, arguing that they would dampen ticket sales and potentially deprive the team of revenue to finance its portion of the project.

Supporters of the project expressed dismay that Menino, Finneran, Cellucci and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham have not held a face-to-face meeting in more than six weeks.

"It's a very discouraging," said one source. "Why can't the four leaders all get in one room and hash out all their differences? That's how you negotiate if you really want to get to yes."

Meanwhile, critics yesterday continued their campaign to block the team's progress on Beacon Hill. Members of the Coalition Against Stadium Subsidies met with a group of lawmakers at the State House yesterday to try to persuade them to vote against any ballpark financing plan this year.

The group, which has been the leading opponent of the project, also urged legislators to tell Finneran and Birmingham not to take up such a controversial project in the waning days of the session.

"If this does happen, it will be so rushed and poorly thought out that it will be a complete disaster that will haunt the state and the city for years," said Rob Sargent of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 7/21/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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