The Boston Phoenix
March 30 - April 6, 2000



Nader says no to new Fenway

by Ben Geman

Opposition to the Boston Red Sox' estimated $600 million plan for a new and bigger Fenway Park got a boost over the weekend when a presidential candidate whacked the scheme.

Legendary consumer advocate Ralph Nader -- who won the state Green Party's nomination last Saturday and is still campaigning for the national party's official support -- doesn't have the profile of George W. Bush or Al Gore. But opponents of the team's plan say Nader's history of opposing corporate welfare adds credibility to their fight.

Nader, speaking in the shadow of the Green Monster Saturday evening at an event organized by the newly formed Citizens Against Stadium Subsidies, predicted that the Red Sox' push would fail.

"Judging by the devastating impact on the larger neighborhood and . . . judging by the opposition of neighborhood groups and the outrageous greed of the owners, I don't think this park will ever be built on the backs of the taxpayers," he said. "It will fall under its own weight."

Nader, who called for renovation of the existing park without taxpayer money, argued that the Red Sox plan would fail to provide good permanent jobs. He added that public subsidies allow businesses to "privatize profits but socialize losses," and that Massachusetts citizens should "hold capitalist moguls to capitalist standards."

"If it is such a good investment for the capitalist owners," he wondered, "why don't they fund it themselves?"

The Red Sox, who may seek as much as $300 million in public subsidies for a new park, are preparing to submit their financing plans to state legislators. Fenway opponents have raised several objections to the plan (which would displace the offices of the Boston Phoenix and several other businesses), including the public-transit system's inability to handle more fans. But it's the subsidy question that's taken center stage of late.

"Our perspective is oriented toward the needs of the neighborhood, but it overlaps with this public-policy question about subsidies for baseball teams," says Carl Koechlin, executive director of the Fenway Community Development Corporation. "When we need housing and schools in our neighborhoods, to think about spending $200 million to $300 million in taxpayer dollars is reprehensible."

Boston city councilor Mike Ross, who represents the Fenway area, sounded a similar note to the crowd of about 30 stadium opponents, calling it "outrageous" that state lawmakers would give the Sox money when pressing needs like housing and schools beckon.

The Fenway event was the first held under the auspices of the new anti-subsidy group, which at press time planned to announce itself formally at a press conference on March 29. Citizens Against Stadium Subsidies is a diverse coalition that includes Citizens for Limited Taxation, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Save Fenway Park, the Fenway Community Development Corporation, MassPIRG, the Fenway Action Coalition, and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations.

"The one simple thing that unites us is that it is just not right for profit-making entities like major-league baseball to be getting taxpayer subsidies," says Rob Sargent, MassPIRG's legislative director. "We might disagree on a lot of things, but we agree on this."