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1999 MLB All-Star Game

Future Fenway

New $545 million home to keep a lot of old look

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Posted: Monday July 12, 1999 09:19 PM

  Even All-Stars like the Reds' Sean Casey (left) and the Diamondbacks' Matt Williams are nostalgic about old Fenway Park. AP

BOSTON (AP) - Baseball's edifice complex looms large over Tuesday's All-Star game.

The wrecking ball won't bash into Fenway Park minutes after the final out. The Red Sox just make it seem that way.

"The fans were crying out for a new ballpark," Red Sox chief executive officer John Harrington said in his office Monday as players started coming onto the field for the All-Star workout.

But the Green on the Monster in left field won't pay for it. Tax money will be needed, the amount undetermined. Unlike Fenway, a one-deck anachronism with 33,817 seats that opened in 1912, the replacement will have three decks, a 45,000 capacity, 100 luxury suites and 5,500 club seats.

At a total cost of $545 million in 2001 dollars, the Red Sox envision the new ballpark opening in 2003, with home plate moving 618 feet southwest of its present location, the field relocating onto land currently occupied by 24 businesses that will have to be bought out.

Everything on the field will remain virtually the same, from the Green Monster with its 37-foot wall in left, to Pesky's Pole in right, which will move back 5 feet to 307 for architectural reasons. The Triangle in the center-field bleachers will be reconfigured into a two-deck arrangement.

"The only way for this team to generate the revenue that they have to do to be successful is with a new ballpark," commissioner Bud Selig said later in the afternoon during a news conference beneath the grandstand, repeating a pitch he's made in several cities across the country in recent months.

Since Toronto's SkyDome opened in 1989, teams have looked at new ballparks like Xanadu, the palatial estate in "Citizen Kane." Already open for business are Chicago's Comiskey Park (1991), Baltimore's Camden Yards ('92), Cleveland's Jacobs Field ('94), Arlington's The Ballpark (also '94), Denver's Coors Field ('95), Atlanta's Turner Field ('97) and Phoenix's Bank One Ballpark ('98).

Seattle's Safeco Field, at $517 million the most expensive ballpark ever built, opens Thursday. Next year will see four more: Detroit's Comerica Park, Houston's Enron Field, Milwaukee's Miller Park and San Francisco's Pac Bell Park.

But change here is more traumatic. Fenway and the Cubs' Wrigley Field are the twin temples of ballparks, tied up with history, emotion and human resistance to change.

"Camden inspired many other teams to move forward on new classic ballparks," Harrington said. "Now we're embracing what they're doing in many ways, and we all realize we need an additional million fans in our ballpark to remain competitive."

Baseball has been abuzz in recent weeks with news that Safeco Field went $100 million over budget. The Mariners used an architect who had never built a baseball park, and the team may be responsible for the overruns.

While some owners criticized them a few years ago for not going after public money, the San Francisco Giants apparently are now the model. Pac Bell will cost $325 million and will open on time and on budget in April, Giants executive vice president Larry Baer said Monday. The team paid for all but $15 million, the amount of a tax break the Giants were given.

The Giants raised $140 million by selling naming rights, seat licenses, advertising, concession rights and sponsorships. The rest came from a $170 million loan from Chase Manhattan, a deal the bank later resold to 10 insurance companies. At an interest rate of about 8 percent, the Giants will be paying off the loan for the next 20 years.

Already, San Francisco has sold 25,000 season tickets for next year. The Giants anticipate selling out all 41,000 seats for every game.

Looking at that model, Harrington said there's no question there will be a new ballpark. The only debates are what percentage will be paid by the team and when the new Fenway will open.

"We will probably have one of the largest private investments in this ballpark than any other ballpark that has been built," Harrington said. "It will be very close to San Francisco, if not exceeding it."


 
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