Op-Ed piece that appeared in the Boston Globe on October 17, 2000 (pg A17)

NOW'S THE TIME FOR BOSTON TO DROP ITS FENWAY PLAN

By MAURA A. HENNIGAN

With the news that the Red Sox are for sale, it's time for the city of Boston to face the truth about the deal proposing a new ballpark adjacent to Fenway Park. And it's time to do what some of the sox' own limited partners have urged according to recent news reports _ begin the search for a ballpark site that makes sense for the city and its residents as well as for the ball club. it's also time to make certain that we keep the Red Sox in Boston.

The current deal, which was hastily cobbled together in the final hours of the Legislative session last summer, should be scrapped because it is a bad one for the taxpayers of the city and the residents of the Fenway and surrounding neighborhoods. There are two fatal flaws. One, it's the wrong site. Two, it's a risky financial deal for the city.

Not only is the Fenway site too expensive; many thriving businesses and residents would lose their property and homes to an eminent domain taking. And it is legally questionable whether private land can be taken to benefit a for-profit business. Additionally, should city revenue streams be used to further enrich a for-profit franchise?

Given the tremendous pressure on infrastructure in the Fenway neighborhood, construction of a new ballpark there would create excessive traffic, congestion, and pollution not only for the Fenway neighborhood but also for the surrounding, abutting communities.

The City of Boston would also be in a precarious position because it would be financially tied to the Red Sox indefinitely, since part of the agreement provides for the city to build and pay for a 3,000-car parking garage. The city would be responsible for covering any cost overruns on the garage. If the Red Sox should seek aid from the city during a downturn in the economy when their revenues decrease, the City of Boston might then be put in the awkward position of having to pump more dollars into the project.

If this rings a bell, it should. That's exactly what happened with the Big Dig. At least in the case of the Big Dig, it is a public infrastructure project that benefits all. That is not the case with the Red Sox legislation, according to which the city would be continuing to fund a for-profit sports franchise benefiting private interests.

The financial risk to the city and its taxpayers from this deal would be real. The city would in a sense be robbing Peter to pay Paul. The city would pay for part of the deal by raising the hotel tax a quarter of 1 percent. This sounds harmless enough because out-of-towners pay this tax. But the truth is that we are relying on the hotel tax to cover any cost overruns to the convention center. Are convention center land acquisition costs likely to be on budget? About as likely as the Big Dig was to be on budget. For the city to raid the convention center's rainy day fund would be fiscally irresponsible.

In the coming months, the mayor intends to send the Red Sox deal to the City Council for a vote. A two-thirds majority will be needed to approve the deal. The votes are not there. Too many councilors recognize that it is a bad deal for the city.

The only sensible course at this stage is for the city to conduct an honest assessment of where in Boston the best place would be to build a baseball stadium. We need to ask hard questions in evaluating each potential site: What is the access to public transportation? What is the proximity to major highways? What is the proximity to corporate Boston? What is the proximity to major existing or proposed parking facilities? What is the potential disruption to existing residences of businesses?

The City of Boston should be reaching out to the private sector to step up to the plate in finding a site for a new ballpark. The sooner the present legislation is laid to rest, the quicker we can find a real solution to this issue that benefits all.

Let's do an honest job of finding the best place in Boston for a ballpark and get the Red Sox a home in which Pedro and Nomar can lead the team to its greatest glory since 1918.

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