Menino says he's not out to block sox, says goal is protecting taxpayers on stadium
By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 04/02/00
A day after he stunned the Boston Red Sox by publicly demanding more
private investment in the team's proposed new $600 million ballpark project,
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday his goal is to protect the city's
taxpayers - not to delay legislative action on a new Fenway Park.
"I'm not trying to kill the project," Menino said in a bid to reassure
skeptics. "I'm still a big supporter of a new ballpark. I just want to be sure
we get a return on our investment. I haven't been convinced of that yet . . .,
but I remain open to having the Red Sox show me how that can be done."
But ballpark supporters fear that with only four months to go in this
legislative session, Menino's late push for more private investment could
prevent passage of a bill to help fund a new Fenway Park this year.
And those who support the mayor's demand for more private investment admit
that it would be difficult for the team to complete the lengthy negotiations
with Major League Baseball and potential new partners that are likely to be
required before lawmakers adjourn for the year in July.
Even as he held out hope for a new Fenway, Menino continued to raise the
bar for the team's plans. Yesterday, he ruled out a tentative plan to use
city bonds to finance a new muncipally owned ballpark. "I am not interested in
owning the ballpark," Menino said, dismissing the idea. "I have a city to
Repeating a theme he struck during a taped interview slated to be broadcast
today, the mayor added: "I think the Red Sox need to look to Major League
Baseball and maybe some new partners to get more private investment [in the
ballpark.] The city is not in the baseball business."
As the Globe reported yesterday, Menino has called for Major League
Baseball to invest up to $8 million in a new Fenway Park, and has urged the
team's owners to take on two major Fenway landowners as partners in the
Menino first offered the proposals on "The Boston Globe/WBZ News
Conference" program scheduled to air this morning.
Apparently caught off guard, the Red Sox have declined to comment on the
While some observers suggest the mayor is adopting a tough public
negotiating posture with the Red Sox, others say they believe he may be
concerned about public opposition to investing taxpayers' money in a new
In a bid to force Major League Baseball to assume some of the costs, Menino
wants the Red Sox to retain the $8 million it currently pays to smaller-market
teams in revenue sharing and use the money to help repay any city investment
in a new ballpark.
League officials, however, rejected the idea, noting that revenue sharing
is covered by the league's collective bargaining agreement.
To change it, the Red Sox would have to secure agreements from other team
owners and the players union - a formidable challenge that could take months,
if not years, with no assurances of success, ballpark boosters said.
Even if the Red Sox pushed, it's unclear whether the league would embrace
the idea, since it would set a precedent for other team owners anxious to
secure public investment in their proposed new ballpark projects. It would
also upset the league's attempt to guarantee a minimum standard of
competitiveness among the teams.
Menino has also ruled out creating a stadium authority to acquire the new
ballpark site and build the new Fenway Park. That idea, promoted by Robert
Walsh, Red Sox development adviser and the team's liaison with the city, was
an option the city has been seriously considering for months.
According to city officials, the purpose of the new stadium authority would
be to access the city's bonding power and ability to borrow at lower interest
"I do not see a stadium authority in my future," Menino said. "I do not
like that idea at all."
Menino's call for dramatic changes in the team's financing plan comes as a
surprise since he has been one of the strongest advocates of a new ballpark
and he directed the team to build its new ballpark in the Fenway area.
In recent weeks, state officials have encouraged the Sox by signaling their
willingness to consider public investment in infrastructure before lawmakers
adjourn for the year in July.
While Menino estimated the Red Sox will need $250 million in public funds,
the Red Sox have not said how much public investment the team needs in the
project. The team's plan includes a new $350 million ballpark, major
infrastructure improvements, two parking garages, and the acquisition of 14
acres of privately owned land adjacent to Fenway Park.
Menino insisted that a new ballpark bill could still pass this year. The
city, he said, remains willing to invest in acquiring land as long as a
return is guaranteed.
"I am not ruling out using city bonds as long as we have a demonstrated way
to get back the money," Menino said. "The new convention center is the model
"We invested money in the new convention center, but we are getting every
dollar we spent on land-takings back through new hotel taxes and the sale of
taxi medallions. That's the kind of thing we're looking for with a new
ballpark," he said.
The interview with Mayor Menino will be shown today on the "Boston
Globe/WBZ News Conference" at 11 a.m. on Channel 4.