The Proposed Red Sox Megaplex

Legal Issues · Stadium Financing · Real Estate Reality · Transportation · A Public Authority

Bad for the Neighborhood

For multiple reasons, the Fenway is quite possibly the worst location for a new ballpark. The Fenway is a dense residential area, home to 30,000+. A new ballpark will add more parking to be used by the surrounding institutions and an entertainment Megaplex on Lansdowne Street. Both of these will degrade the quality of life in the neighborhood.

Stadium Financing

Currently, the BIG QUESTION is how the Sox are going to pay for it. The proposed Megaplex project certainly cannot be built without a raid on public funds. It might be possible to fund it through private financing alone, but no private financing deal will be palatable to the Red Sox owners: It's the subsidy that makes the deal worth doing. That's what makes this whole proposal so dishonorable. Why should the Red Sox buy the land fair and square, raise the money and carry the debt themselves, when they can instead persuade the City and State to force established businesses to sell their land [at the BRA's set rate] and have taxpayers carry the risk on the line of debt.

Major League Steal:     Executive Summary,     Full Report (PDF format)
     The Economic Folly of Public Subsidies for a New Red Sox Stadium
Analysis of the economic impact study (Note: Big PDF file, 1.1 MB) prepared for the Boston Chamber of Commerce by C. H. Johnson Consulting, Inc.
To view the PDF documents, you may need to download either the Adobe Acrobat Reader or Ghostscript/GSview.

Other resources:

The simple truth is this: if building a stadium was a profitable venture, the Red Sox would build a new one themselves. But they are not. A stadium investment might be a good deal for the right investors (probably media owners) if the Red Sox owners included the team, or shares of it, in the bargain. But a Stadium Subsidy will never be a good deal for the Massachusetts public or the people of Boston.

After all, why spend your own money when you can borrow...on someone else's credit? Better yet, why spend your own money when you can steal with impunity? “The Sox are asking for a subsidy because they think they can get it.”

Legal Issues

The ballpark proposal requires taking land from private businesses and giving it to another private business. This action will most certainly be contested in court, and is quite possibly unconstitutional. Furthermore, a plan for public land-taking for a ballpark in Springfield, MA was knocked down by the Massachusetts Superior Court.

Furthermore, in Boston, any public land taking by eminent domain must be approved by the City Council. They have shown they are reluctant to do so.

The New Fenway Park Proponents have a serious legal battle ahead. Previous news reports have said that they plan to "Build first, litigate later." Surely, the issue will be forced before any ground can be broken.

Real Estate Reality

Why would a ballpark cost as much as a gigantic convention center? Why build the most expensive ballpark ever, when Save Fenway Park! has shown how to save the most popular ballpark ever?

The answer lies in Bob Walsh's recent admission: This is a real estate deal.

Baseball is only the "spiritual" hook; taxpayers across Boston and Massachusetts are being tricked into subsidizing a huge hotel/entertainment development, perhaps capped with multi-million-dollar sky-box condos.  The Sox and their real-estate development team are engineering a giant public land grab of private property, at unprecedented prices, so the ballpark can move a little to the left and liberate its current site for the theme-park Megaplex.  That's been the game all along.  Public money for the land, commmercial garages, bonds, tax breaks -- all passed in a big hurry, in secret "caususes," over a long holiday weekend when no one's in town.  We won't even know what happened until the outraged audits of the "Ball-Pork" start -- much, much later....

Voters should tell their elected officials in no uncertain terms:  We have a housing crisis, an education crisis, a transit crisis, an open space crisis, a health care crisis.  We do not have a baseball crisis.

We should be funding homes, not home runs.  Let's invest our public money in public needs, and let the "free market" deal with the Sox-plex.  If it's a good investment, the capital will come running; if not, why should hard-working taxpayers take the risk?

Courtesy of S. Kressel

Further reading:
"Sell your land or we'll take it", Leviathan USA /, June 24, 2000

Transportation Improvements

The proposed transportation improvements fall woefully short.

The transportation plan proposes ... The reality is...
increased shuttle service from nearby MBTA stations, Most people are reluctant to use more than two transportation modes in one trip. How many people are willing to drive to a T station close to home, ride a train to Ruggles, and then take a shuttle bus to Fenway Park? We suspect most people would just rather drive directly there [2]... which leads us to....
new parking garages (“Particulate Plaza”) & Parking in the Fenway consumes an estimated 33% of the land, and the surface lots are an eye-sore. Aside from the adverse affects of bringing more cars to the Fenway and surrounding neighborhoods (i.e. Roxbury), "public infrastructure" that holds little public benefit is quite often a place to hide subsidies. All taxpayers should be asking: who builds the garages? how are they apportioned? and who profits when the asset changes hands?
increased use of satellite parking facilities, The new ballpark proposal plans for a 33% increase in attendance. To accomodate the (conservative) number of cars from the increase, the transportation plan incorporates parking facilities as far away as Brookline Village and Brighton (Babcock St.). We believe this is unrealistic and unsustainable.
and a redesign of some intersections. Honestly now, the real problem during game days is road capacity, not intersection configuration. While some road reconfiguations may be welcome, road widening is not. So there will still be traffic tie-ups. We don't feel that the neighborhood should trade minor improvements (which should/could be done regardless of a new stadium) for the headaches and pressure from a new stadium.
Further reading:
  1. Red Sox Traffic Study, Summary and Analysis by Fenway Action
  2. Data presented at the May FKNTA shows that less than 2% of game patrons choose to use the shuttle buses from Ruggles Station during the first month the service was offered.

Is a Stadium Authority a good idea?

We don't think so.

Public Authorities are only indirectly accountable to the citizens they serve. They walk the fine line between quasi-coporations and quasi-states... they own land, provide services, and often have a similar operational structure to corporations... with a Chairman, board of directors, and a goal to maintain a fit bottom line. On the other hand, they have the power of government to take land and impose taxes (in the form of tolls or use fees). The disadvantage for the general public is that there is no direct accountability between the citizens and the Chairmen/Directors of the Authority, and unlike corporations, there is no competition for services. Do we need another agency with the potential to mislead voters and bond holders like the Big Pig? or another Booze Cruise scandal a la Massport? or another vacation scandal vis-a-vis the Convention Center Authority? The only way to prevent authorities scandals is to prevent forming the authority in the first place! Click here for additional insight into a Stadium Authority.