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New ballpark plan unveiled

McCourt intent to bid on Sox still unclear

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 8/1/2001

Stepping up his campaign to locate a new baseball stadium on land he owns on the South Boston Waterfront, developer Frank McCourt publicly previewed his plan for a new home for the Boston Red Sox yesterday.

The two-hour presentation offered to reporters was the same slide show McCourt has been giving to business and political leaders at closed-door meetings for the past several months.

Using computer graphics to overlay the San Francisco Giants' new PacBell Park over the 12-acre parcel McCourt owns near the Moakley federal courthouse, McCourt's aides said the project would be boon to South Boston and would avoid the increased traffic that would accompany other commercial projects he might develop on the site.

The presentation was made by a team of McCourt's top aides - including spokesman Charles Kenney, transportation consultant Marc Cutler, development advisers Diom O'Connell and Brad Guarino, and South Boston community liaison Joseph Nee - who concluded by saying McCourt's land was ''the best site in the city'' for a new ballpark.

McCourt himself was absent from the rollout for reporters of his Seaport ballpark plan. Missing, too, was the answer to the question that lies at the heart of his carefully managed public relations campaign: With the sale of the Red Sox set to kick into high gear this month, will McCourt bid on the team?

Last month South Boston officials said McCourt told them he hopes to parlay his land into a majority ownership stake in the Red Sox. But Red Sox chief John Harrington insists the team will be sold on a cash-only basis and McCourt has not filed the necessary paperwork to bid on the Red Sox. Although he still has time to do so before the Aug. 15 deadline for the first, nonbinding phase of the sale, McCourt repeatedly has declined to say publicly if he will place a bid.

Pressed yesterday, McCourt's aides dodged the question, instead saying that South Boston's vehemence in rejecting New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's proposed football stadium four years ago forced McCourt to take another approach before deciding if he should bid on the Red Sox.

''The legacy of the Kraft experience is that we have to be very careful, so it's not a case of just pulling an application and sending it in,'' said Kenney. ''We have to determine first if it's something the community will support.... As we've met with people over the past three months, we've been very encouraged by the response.''

Noting the top concern cited by South Boston community leaders was the increased traffic and parking generated by a 44,000-seat ballpark, O'Connell stressed that McCourt's parcel is located ''within a 10-minute walk'' from downtown. Cutler, in turn, pointed out the parcel's proximity to public transit stations, including planned Silver Line stops and South Station. He also noted the site is immediately adjacent to the key ramps, now under construction, that will connect the Central Artery and Massachusetts Turnpike Extension and the Ted Williams Tunnel. Already funded as part of the Big Dig, those improvements will bring fans directly to the ballpark rather than through South Boston's residential neighborhood, he said.

Nor would parking be a problem, Cutler said. Using the same figures the Red Sox used in estimating traffic generated by their proposed new ballpark in the Fenway, McCourt's aides estimated Red Sox fans traveling to the waterfront would require about 7,000 spaces. There are approximately 20,000 spaces planned or approved in the area, and since most games are played at night or on weekends, there would be ample parking available, Cutler said.

Finally, McCourt's team said that since most of the infrastructure improvements needed to serve a ballpark in South Boston have been funded, it's possible the $100 million in state aid approved by the Legislature last year to build a stadium adjacent to the current Fenway Park could be used to fund crucial improvements required for other projects in the Seaport area.

For example, they said, the money could be used to build the so-called slingshot ramp off the Massachusetts Turnpike, which is needed to shuttle conventioneers to and from their Back Bay hotels.

Conversely, O'Connell said, if McCourt builds offices and condos on his site instead of a ballpark, South Boston residents would face more traffic and lose the additional state funds associated with the ballpark that could help resolve those problems.

But with the team slated to be sold this winter, it will be up to the new owners of the Red Sox to decide where they want to build a ballpark. As a result, the sticking point is whether McCourt will bid on the team - with or without partners.

Several prospective bidders contacted by the Globe yesterday ruled out the idea of giving McCourt a majority ownership stake in the Red Sox in exchange for his land.

At least two of the six groups approved to place a bid on the team are studying other ballpark sites in the South Boston area. And while Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino has seen McCourt's plan, he has not signed onto the proposal.

His spokeswoman said yesterday that Menino wants to see who wins the Red Sox bidding war before he makes a decision on moving the team from the Fenway neighborhood where it has played since 1912.

Meg Vaillancourt can be reached by e-mail at vaillancourt@globe.com.

This story ran on page C3 of the Boston Globe on 8/1/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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