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Fenway Park study inflates benefits, MASSPIRG says

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 03/03/00

A new Fenway Park will not give Boston the economic boost its backers promise, a consumer and environmental group says.

Seeking to discourage lawmakers from investing public funds in the project, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group yesterday assailed a 10-month-old study that touts the economic benefits of the Red Sox's proposed $600 million ballpark.

"It is not a good use of taxpayers' money," said Rob Sargent, Masspirg director. "Taxpayers should not be financing the private gain of Major League Baseball owners."

Masspirg argued that a prior study backed by Boston business and tourism leaders grossly exaggerated the economic impact.

That study, released by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau, said public investment in a new, larger Fenway Park would generate an estimated $116 million in additional annual spending in the Boston area and create 1,032 permanent jobs.

Masspirg contends that that analysis used inflated figures for annual attendance, the number of out-of-state fans likely to attend games, and the amount they will spend. Its criticisms were bolstered by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, a professor at Smith College and an author of several books opposing public subsidies for stadiums.

Yesterday, chamber officials stood by their assessment. President Paul Guzzi said C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc. of Chicago, which wrote the report, is a nationally respected firm.

Added Red Sox spokeswoman Kathryn St. John: "We think there are significant economic benefits . . . and that any public investment would be returned because of the public benefits."

St. John would not say exactly when the team would make a public request for government money, only that it would occur "at the end of winter."

Observers expect the team may ask for up to $250 million in state infrastructure funds.

Other groups, including the Fenway Action Coalition and Save Fenway Park, joined Masspirg yesterday to oppose the Red Sox plan.

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