At the heart of the Red Sox – a real estate play? by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Today’s Globe story that a deal is near for developer John Rosenthal’s Fenway Center is good news for all concerned.  The idea that this project would have a 99-year lease on air rights over the Turnpike between Beacon Street and Brookline Avenue near Kenmore must have Red Sox owners lusting even more to lock in the current low cost street lease they have with Boston over Landsdowne Street (site of Green Monster seats) and Yawkey Way (site of souvenir and sausage vendors.)

I stand second to no one in my lifelong love for the Red Sox, my pride in their performance out of the gate this spring, and my hope that they’ll regain that April momentum.  But  a recent Boston Globe story about the team’s move to make permanent its favorable street lease deal, at the expense of the city and its taxpayers, is a whole other take on the otherwise beloved home team.

You know those Yawkey Way sausages that smell so good but send your arteries closing? I get indigestion when I realize that for the past decade the Sox have had a sweetheart deal to use Yawkey Way, owned by the city,  for the sale of concessions and Landsdowne Street air rights for the Green Monster seats.   Over the past ten years, the Red Sox have paid only an average of $186,000 annually to use these streets, while generating from that license an estimated $5 million a year. They’ve also tripled the price of Green Monster seats, but the license is capped at five percent a year.  Surely these profits are not being passed on to fans, who pay top-of-the-majors ticket prices.

Locking in that low rate for life would significantly increase the team’s net worth should it decide to sell, but I don’t see a commensurate benefit for the city or for us fans.  Someone I love dearly dismisses Red Sox Nation as a clever marketing cover for essentially a private real estate play with a publicly seductive entertainment hook.  I refuse to be so cynical.

I understand this is not the community-owned Green Bay Packers, and I acknowledge that team ownership has an obligation to try to get all it can for its business partners. But the city is under no obligation to acquiesce. And it clearly should not give in to this demand.

BRA Director Peter Meade’s reported earlier insistence that “the fee be increased and tied to income earned on the streets, rather than the consumer price index” makes sense… even for die-hard Red Sox fans.

I welcome your comments in the section below.