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Opponents offer alternative Fenway plans

Architects' proposal would renovate or reconstruct ballpark on current site

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 8/13/2000

s the Boston Red Sox struggle to find $352 million in private financing for the new Fenway Park, opponents yesterday offered two alternative plans they claimed would save the team money, avoid lawsuits, and preserve what fans view as hallowed ground. Following a 10-day brainstorming session, a group of ballpark architects and urban designers unveiled the two plans at a meeting with about 100 Fenway area residents and activists yesterday afternoon. One plan details how a new stadium could be built on the current Fenway Park site, and the second calls for the Red Sox to renovate the 88-year-old ballpark.

"The best ballparks in the country are neighborhood ballparks," said Philip Bess, a Chicago architect who has worked on designs for the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago White Sox, and the Florida Marlins. "We've demonstrated that a rehabilitated or reconstructed Fenway Park on its current site can be built for much less money than the ill-conceived proposal currently on the table," Bess said. "And at the same time, these designs meet the Red Sox's need by significantly enhancing the team's revenue streams."

The Red Sox, however, made it clear they are wedded to their own plan, which was adopted by state lawmakers last month. It calls for a new 44,000-seat ballpark on 15 acres adjacent to Fenway Park.

"Our architects and engineers have thoroughly studied the option of rebuilding in place, and have concluded it is not physically or economically feasible," said Sox vice president James Healy. "We remain open to constructive ideas from our neighbors and appreciate the time and effort so many of them have devoted to helping us develop the best ballpark plan in the country."

The alternative plans were sponsored by Save Fenway Park and the Fenway Community Development Corporation. The two nonprofits said they are raising about $40,000 in private donations to fund the "design charette" that developed the alternative plans. They were devised over a 10-day period with daily input from Fenway residents, business owners, and activists.

Neither the Red Sox, nor aides to Mayor Thomas M. Menino, an advocate of the team's plan, participated in the sessions, organizers said. "This process has demonstrated that a public planning process can lead to something that satisfies everyone's needs," Fenway CDC president Lisa Soli said. "It's in stark contrast to the back-room deals that surrounded the Red Sox plan."

The alternative proposals are smaller than the team's plan, and offer fewer luxury boxes than the team has proposed. But neither of the alternatives would require any land takings. Supporters argued that the Red Sox could save money and legal headaches by using either plan since property owners whose land would have to be seized for the new ballpark have threatened to sue.

One approach outlined yesterday envisions a new 38,200-seat ballpark with revamped seating that includes a reconstructed grandstand and a single upper deck set close to the playing field. The second plan, which calls for Fenway Park to be renovated, would provide between 33,000 and 37,000 seats.

The architects and planners estimated the price tag for the new ballpark design at $229 million, while the renovation would cost between $160 million and $180 million.

The designers said both plans could be built in a phased construction process that would allow the team to continue playing during the season, though it's possible that a number of seats would be lost during the 2 1/2-year construction period.

The Red Sox argue that they have studied a number of similar ideas over the years and none would give the team the amenities it needs or generate the revenues required to compete with other teams that play in new ballparks, most of which are publicly subsidized. The team also said that given the summer construction season in New England and the team's playing schedule, phased construction would add $100 million more to the price tag of any project.

Under the Red Sox plan, the team will build a $352 million ballpark. It will be built on 15 acres, 10 of which the city would have to take by eminent domain. The bill signed into law last week calls for the city to pay as much as $140 million to acquire and clean up the site. It will be repaid through surcharges on Sox tickets, parking, and an increase in Boston's hotel tax.

However opponents of the team's plan, including City Councilors who must approve city funds for the project, said they will propose the two alternatives at public hearings next month.

This story ran on page B02 of the Boston Globe on 8/13/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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