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Sox meet councilors on ballpark plan

By Meg Vaillancourt and Steve Wilmsen, Globe Staff, 12/23/2000

mid the team's continuing struggle to find financing for a new Fenway Park, Red Sox chief executive John Harrington met privately with four city councilors this week, but the Sox did not appear to win any converts for their ballpark project.

Harrington and several key aides, including financing experts from Major League Baseball and attorneys who specialize in eminent domain, spent several hours in two meetings Thursday with city councilors Paul Scappiccio, Charles Turner, Maureen Feeney, and Michael Flaherty.

At the meetings, Harrington presented arguments detailing why the Red Sox need a new ballpark to remain competitive with other teams that play in publicly subsidized facilities and why the team believes it is economically unfeasible simply to renovate their current home.

The councilors said they also grilled the Red Sox about alternative sites and plans, the team's ability to finance its portion of the project, and the decision to sign slugger Manny Ramirez for $160 million - at the same time the Red Sox are requesting public aid for a new ballpark.

''I don't think they changed anyone's mind,'' said one councilor who took part in the sessions. ''There are still a lot of questions about whether this is the right site, if they will be able to finance the project, and why we should accept this plan when the team is about to be sold to a new owner.''

Although Harrington did not specifically ask for additional city aid, two councilors said the team also suggested it needs major revisions in the ballpark bill that was adopted by state lawmakers in July in order to obtain private financing for the project.

As the Globe reported last week, Red Sox supporters are poised to ask state and city officials to consider a variety of ways they might help the team cover possible cost overruns.

''The Red Sox didn't come right out and admit they can't get financing under the current conditions, but they did indicate they need some changes in the legislation to make this work,'' said one councilor, who declined to be identified. ''Of course, state leaders have already said they have no interest in revisiting the issue, but the Red Sox didn't really acknowledge that.''

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino supports the team's plan, but the Red Sox face an uphill battle with the City Council. The team was directed to the Fenway by city planners, but the Sox need the votes of nine of the 13 councilors to approve the required $212 million in city bonds, and seven votes to seize the private property where the team plans to build the park.

This story ran on page 1 of the Boston Globe on 12/23/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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