Councilors object to using public money for ballpark
By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 04/14/00
Just as the Boston Red Sox appeared to be making progress on public funding
for their proposed new $600 million ballpark, eight city councilors sent the
team reeling yesterday with a letter to Governor Paul Cellucci sounding their
lack of support for the project.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino has been negotiating with the team and state
officials for almost a year over public investment in a new Fenway Park.
Although the Red Sox have not detailed their financing plan, Menino has
said the city would assist the team by using eminent domain and bonding
authority to acquire the proposed 14-acre ballpark site adjacent to the
88-year-old Fenway Park.
The council letter could be a challenge to Menino's position because the
taking of city land and use of the city's bonding authority requires the
approval of councilors.
In their sternly worded letter, eight of the 13 councilors said "it would
be a mistake" to assume they would agree to either action.
Noting their increasing concern that the council has not been part of
negotiations with the team, councilors made it clear they intend to withhold
support unless assured the city will be able to recover funds spent acquiring
the site. Estimates for land acquistion range from $65 million to more than
"Unless the City Council is presented with a credible plan for a return on
the taxpayers' investment and a return to the City Treasury, we will not
support using public funds for a new stadium for the Boston Red Sox," the
The letter was signed by Michael Ross, Chuck Turner, Mickey Roache, Peggy
Davis-Mullen, Brian Honan, Maura Hennigan, Maureen Feeney, and Charles Yancey.
In addition to Cellucci, the letter was sent to House Speaker Thomas M.
Finneran and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham. Menino also received a
The mayor had no comment on the letter yesterday, but his spokeswoman,
Carol Brennan stressed he was not taking the council's support for granted.
"The mayor is not making any assumptions about the City Council actions,"
she said. "The parties are still in negotiations and there is no definitive
plan to share with the council yet. When there is, of course he will involve
The letter represents a significant setback for the both the Red Sox and
the mayor, who until recently has been viewed as the project's biggest
cheerleader. By addressing the letter to state officials, the councilors
appeared to be directly challenging Menino's control of the negotiating and
Robert Walsh, a close friend of the mayor's who is the team's development
adviser on the project, has been the Red Sox point man with city officials,
including the council.
With lawmakers scheduled to adjourn in July, the Red Sox are facing an
increasingly tight deadline in assembling a financing package that has support
in City Hall and on Beacon Hill.
Top aides to Cellucci, Birmingham, Finneran, and Menino have been meeting
with the Red Sox for months, hammering out possible financing schemes that
could allow the team to secure up to $250 million in state and city funds.
Without public investment, including landtakings by the city and state
infrastructure aid, the Red Sox say they cannot build their new ballpark.