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Leaders reject Seaport ballpark idea

Menino, Moakley oppose Sox stadium at South Boston site

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 12/20/2000

hile the Red Sox's struggle to find financing for a new Fenway Park has prompted critics to urge the team to consider alternative sites, two key political leaders yesterday flatly ruled out a new ballpark near the South Boston waterfront.

In separate interviews, both Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and US Representative J. Joseph Moakley, whose district includes South Boston, essentially declared the idea of a Seaport-area ballpark dead on arrival.

''There's just no room in the Seaport or South Boston for this project and the kind of traffic it will generate,'' Moakley said. ''The congestion is unbearable as it is, and there isn't enough infrastructure money to make it work. It'd take a lot more than $100 million in state aid to make the traffic disappear, so I don't see how it can fit there, no matter who owns the team.''

Menino, who remains committed to building the ballpark in the Fenway, also ruled out the most frequently named Seaport venue on developer Frank McCourt's land near the federal courthouse.

''We've tried to put a new stadium down there twice, and twice it's proved unworkable,'' Menino said. ''If there were too many problems with 10 Sunday games for football, there will be a lot more problems with 81 games, many of which will be played on weeknights near rush hour. The idea is a pipe dream.''

City Council President James Kelly has previously scoffed at the idea of a ballpark in South Boston. And yesterday Menino stressed that the Boston Redevelopment Authority studied more than 20 sites throughout the city and rejected all of them, citing problems with assembling the site, traffic, parking, poor access to mass transit, the need to relocate businesses or residents, and more appropriate uses for the land.

''The best place for a new Fenway Park, as the BRA has demonstrated, is the Fenway, but the Red Sox haven't done enough to make that happen,'' Menino said. ''We suggested over a year ago that they make some deal with some of the major landowners over there, but my understanding is they haven't made any offers.''

Several Fenway landowners said the team has not made any specific offers to buy or place options on their parcels. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Menino yesterday indicated he will give a cold shoulder to Red Sox supporters expected to make a pitch for more public aid for the project.

''The Red Sox have not performed in making a deal with the Fenway landowners which could help keep a lid on the costs of this project, so why should they expect me to offer more help?'' Menino said. ''I can't be more supportive of a nonperforming entity.''

State officials, including Governor Paul Cellucci and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, also ruled out more state aid for the project. ''The governor believes the state has already done its part in pledging $100 million for infrastructure aid for the Fenway project,'' said Cellucci spokesman John Birtwell.

''We reached an agreement, we got the legislation through, we're done,'' Finneran told State House reporters. However he also cautioned that state aid is not guaranteed on any other site, and the team's owners will have to start all over again on Beacon Hill.

As the Globe has reported, Red Sox supporters are poised to ask political leaders for more aid, including help in sharing the burden for land cost overruns. Under the ballpark bill passed by state lawmakers, the Red Sox are responsible for all cost overruns associated with the project.

Team officials yesterday reiterated their pledge to try to root the team in the Fenway before the Red Sox are sold to new owners, most likely after next season. ''We intend to do everything we can to build our new ballpark in the Fenway,'' said team vice president James Healey.

Meanwhile, several business leaders interested in buying the Red Sox are talking about the possiblity of forming a so-called ''supergroup'' of local bidders, according to sources. Boston Concessions owner Joseph O'Donnell, who is expected to place a bid with developer Steve Karp and Star Market heir David Mugar, recently talked with EMC cofounder Roger Marino, the only local businessman to publicly announce he intends to bid on the team, the sources said.

McCourt, along with his brother David, head of the Princeton-based media company RCN, is also said to be interested in buying the team. McCourt did not return calls yesterday.

The O'Donnell-Karp-Mugar contingent has not yet submitted the required preliminary application to the Red Sox, sources said, so it's unclear if the group hopes to include other local prospective bidders, such as McCourt and FleetBoston Financial chief executive Terry Murray, an avid Red Sox fan. Supporters argue that such a local ''supergroup'' would be more capable of outbidding out-of-town corporations that may be interested in buying the Red Sox.

However, skeptics point out that Major League Baseball discourages ownership by large groups. Under League rules, such a group must select one general partner to represent the team at owners meetings, and attempts to share the privilege by rotating the position each year is prohibited.

''If you have to choose a kingpin and you look at all the huge egos a group like that would involve, you could end up with a circular firing squad,'' said one executive close to the Red Sox. ''It's hard to imagine how they decide who gets to sit in the owner's box.''

This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 12/20/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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