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Menino affirms Fenway accord

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 12/17/2000

ince the Boston Red Sox have not asked him for more city support of their new Fenway Park project, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday that he has no reason to believe the team needs or deserves any additional help.

''No one has presented any requests to me,'' Menino said. ''We already have a deal on the table. And no one has proven to me that the financing package that was passed on Beacon Hill doesn't work.''

Menino made the comments in response to a report in the Globe suggesting that team supporters are poised to ask for major revisions in the Fenway Park bill, which state lawmakers passed in July. The team is thought to be struggling to secure more than $350 million to pay for construction of the new ballpark, and the changes would make it easier for the Red Sox to obtain private financing, financial specialists said.

Some of the team's strongest supporters, including two of the politically powerful executives who helped push the ballpark bill through the Legislature - advertising tycoon Jack Connors and FleetBoston president Chad Gifford - are expected to make the pitch for the Red Sox.

According to city sources, the two men had been scheduled to meet with the mayor Friday, but the meeting was postponed.

Possible revisions under review, the Globe reported, include agreements that would remove the team's liability for cost overruns, limit its real estate taxes, and increase new tax revenues available for the project.

Red Sox officials declined to specifically discuss the matter yesterday. Since the ballpark bill was signed into law in August, the team has shared only two general statements from potential lenders and has refused to make public any financing options.

''The Red Sox are committed to making the largest private investment in sports history,'' a team vice president, James Healy, said in a statement yesterday. ''We are currently engaged in ongoing private discussions with our bankers to secure financing and we will comment when it's appropriate.''

City and state officials rejected changes that would have limited the team's risks when the Red Sox proposed them before the ballpark bill was passed. The bill provides $312 million in city and state funds for the project, which has an estimated price of $660 million.

Under the bill, the Red Sox are required to shoulder all of the cost overruns for buying the 10-acre site, for cleaning it up, and for building the ballpark. The team, fans, tourists, and shoppers are also expected to repay the city's $140 million investment in preparing the site, through ticket surcharges, parking fees, and new hotel and meals taxes.

The Yawkey Trust's majority stake in the franchise was put up for sale two months ago. If the team arranges financing for the project, it would help ensure a new park is built 300 yards or so from the old Fenway on a site favored by Menino and the Red Sox chief executive, John Harrington.

Red Sox supporters, including business leaders and State House officials who endorsed the team's plan this year, warned that if Harrington does not find financing, a new owner may decide to build the new ballpark on a cheaper site elsewhere in Boston, or perhaps outside city limits.

Among local businessmen expected to bid on the Red Sox are several large property owners, who could cut the cost of the project by using their own land and eliminate the need to secure the Fenway site by eminent domain. Under the bill, the $100 million in state infrastructure funding applies only to the Fenway site.

However, critics of the plan, including some city councilors and would-be owners, have been promoting alternative sites, including a parcel near the South Boston waterfront, a site near the Suffolk Downs track on the East Boston-Revere border, one adjacent to the Assembly Square Mall in Somerville, and another near the border of Charlestown and Everett.

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 12/17/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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