Mayor seeks changes in Fenway plan, urges MLB investment, partnerships
By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 04/01/00
Calling for dramatic changes in how the Boston Red Sox finance a new Fenway
Park, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday that Major League Baseball should
invest up to $8 million in the project, and urged the team's owners to take on
two major landowners in the Fenway as partners in a new ballpark.
Menino made the comments in an interview on "The Boston Globe/WBZ News
Conference" that will be aired tomorrow morning.
Menino, who has been a key supporter of the Red Sox' new ballpark proposal,
also dealt the team's plans a potentially serious blow when he said the city
needs a guaranteed repayment on any funds it invests in the project.
"The city would have to make money or at least be sure we would get our
money back and nothing I've seen has convinced me of that," Menino told the
Globe following yesterday's taping. "The point is we have to have a
demonstrated way to get our investment back."
Menino ruled out the creation of a new stadium authority to build the
ballpark, and he was cool to the idea of using the city's bonding authority to
pay for it. In discussions about the project over the past year, it was widely
assumed the city would pay for land acquisition costs.
"I don't want to be in the baseball business," Menino said, adding, "There
are no grants on the city's part. We are looking for a return on our
Red Sox officials, saying they had not heard the mayor's remarks, declined
to comment last night.
The mayor also said preliminary figures supplied by the team suggest the
Sox may seek $250 million in public aid for the $600 million project, which
includes a new ballpark, two parking garages, major infrastruture
improvements, and the cost of assembling the proposed 14-acre new ballpark
site adjacent to Fenway Park.
Menino's tough comments come at the same time that state leaders have been
encouraging progress on the new ballpark.
Struggling to find a way to fund construction of the $350 million ballpark,
the Red Sox have been privately discussing various scenarios with city
officials under which the city might own the ballpark.
Taking a cue from House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, who last year insisted
the National Football League invest in a new stadium for the New England
Patriots, Menino pressed Major League Baseball to allow the Red Sox to retain
the $8 million a year it currently pays to smaller-market teams in revenue
sharing. In turn, Menino said, the Red Sox could use the $8 million to help
repay any city investment in the project.
"Maybe we hold onto that $8 million a year and use that to pay for our debt
service," Menino said.
League officials, however, countered that baseball does not have the
lucrative broadcast revenues that football enjoys. They also argued that MLB
has already agreed to make a "contribution" to the new ballpark by in essence
forgiving several million dollars in revenue-sharing the team would owe while
it builds a new ballpark.
"Major League Baseball will make significant contributions of several
million dollars per year to the Red Sox' new ballpark through permanent
credits and deductions against what the team would otherwise pay in revenue
sharing to MLB," said Robert Starkey, a league financial adviser and
consultant to the Red Sox. "This will allow the Red Sox to put more private
dollars into the project than they would otherwise be able to do."
Menino also urged the team to take on two major Fenway landowners as
partners in the ballpark: the D'Angelo family, who own the Twins Souvenir
shops, and the Sage family, who own the Howard Johnson's Hotel. Both
businesses are located in the footprint of the proposed site and so would have
to have their land taken to build the new ballpark.
When the Red Sox unveiled their ballpark design last year, team officials
estimated land acquisition costs at roughly $65 million. But yesterday Menino
said land values have escalated since the team priced the parcels and
suggested it would cost "about $100 million."
For months, the Red Sox have been talking with Menino about the city
acquiring the site through its powers of eminent domain. But yesterday Menino
suggested that Boston can't afford to contribute $100 million toward
Noting the D'Angelo and Sage parcels represent more than 30 percent of the
proposed site, Menino yesterday urged the Sox to accept them as "partners in a
new ballpark." In exchange for the parcels, Menino suggested the D'Angelos
might be allowed to sell souvenirs within the new ballpark, and Sage could
build a new hotel as part of the development.
"The D'Angelos, who own a large corner parcel, why couldn't they be part of
the development - say two or three percent - and Sage who owns property in the
back?" Menino said. "That reduces the cost [to the city in landtakings] and
that's what we're looking for."
Currently the Red Sox control all souvenir sales within Fenway Park and the
team has been counting on increased souvenir sales to help finance the new
Both the D'Angelos and Sage have expressed interest in partnering with the
Red Sox. However, team officials resisted the idea, saying they could secure
private funds elsewhere, perhaps from the team's limited partners if
The entire interview with Mayor Menino will be shown tomorrow on The Boston
Globe/WBZ News Conference at 11 a.m. on Channel 4.