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Financing a ballpark

Editorial, Globe Staff, 04/29/00

The City of Boston owns many valuable properties, but a major-league baseball stadium should not be one of them. As it seeks to help the Red Sox build a new Fenway Park, the Menino administration ought to abandon the notion of this kind of direct financial involvement.

City ownership, either directly or indirectly, is fraught with peril for taxpayers. The stadium presumably would be built using bonds that would be paid off with revenue from ticketholders. If the team lost popularity midway through the repayment period, the city might be forced to use tax money to pay off the bonds.

Other cities have encountered difficulties when the team no longer considered the municipal baseball stadium adequate for its needs. If the city owned the stadium, the team might demand a new or expanded ballpark 30 years from now.

This page believes the city and state should help the Red Sox build a new stadium. The state should make a contribution for ancillary costs, and an amount higher than the $70 million allotted to the Patriots could be justified by the baseball club's greater economic impact.

As for the city, it is already committed to providing the land for the new convention center. For the Red Sox, it can help with land-taking, zoning, and other matters, but its financial contribution should not be made at the expense of other more urgent concerns.

The Red Sox promised to release a financing plan last July, but it has been delayed repeatedly, and there is no prospect it will be ready soon. The Red Sox will not explain why, but it is reasonable to assume that the team cannot bridge the gap between what it can afford and what the state might contribute.

John Harrington, the Red Sox chief executive, should not rule out bringing in other private interests to create a financially viable proposal. The city and the state do have an interest in encouraging the Red Sox to thrive in Boston, but the team itself, as the prime beneficiary of a new stadium, ought to rely primarily on the private sector for financing.

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