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Fenway Fleecing: MA Inspector General Blasts Boston for Red Sox Crony Capitalism Deal

The Massachusetts Inspector General blasts a sweetheart deal between the Boston Red Sox and the city of Boston as an abuse of taxpayers.

“The review found that the [Boston Redevelopment Authority] BRA did not exercise the due diligence it owes to the City and the taxpayers,” Inspector General Glen Cunha wrote in a 19-page, footnoted letter to the director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. “It failed to ensure that the sale price it negotiated was in the taxpayers’ best interest. Furthermore, its process for reviewing and approving the transactions was flawed, not supported by evidence and lacked transparency.”

The mayoral administration and most members of the BRA board that fast-tracked the agreement no longer remain in power. The letter remains silent on remedy and about whether corruption motivated the decision of Boston officials to give away public streets to a private entity for pennies on the dollar.

The IG notes that the deal, which gave rights to a public street to the Red Sox to peddle food and merchandise without competition on game days and to the space above another public street for the team to build seats above the left-field wall, relied on “illogical and questionable valuation methodologies,” hid concession revenue from the city, used eminent domain powers foreign to both law and common sense by declaring some of the most expensive real estate in New England “urban blight,” and shut the public out of the process by rushing the deal through without scrutiny.

Whereas Boston paid above its appraiser’s highest estimate for land owned by the Red Sox, the Red Sox received the rights to land from Boston for far below market value. The report points out, “In the end, the total price of $7,340,377 the Red Sox paid for the Yawkey Way and Lansdowne Street rights was the equivalent of approximately $6,000 per event day–about the cost of 36 Monster Seat tickets in 2013–and only for ten years.”

Lansdowne Street Fenway Park

Greg Sullivan, a former Bay State inspector general, praised the report. “The IG’s report was scathing because the deal was layered with blatant arrogance, favoritism, secrecy, and abuse,” the Pioneer Institute research director noted. “The parties got valuable property in perpetuity in exchange for ten years of low-ball rent, determined by the Red Sox’s appraiser no less, robbing the taxpayers of their very valuable property.”

Breitbart Sports published a four-part series in 2014 detailing the crony capitalism scheme. The story of businessman Joseph Marchese, blocked by the BRA from bidding on concession rights on Yawkey Way, permeated that series but remained absent from the IG’s 19-page letter. Marchese’s lawsuit against the city for closing a bidding process continues. For the private vendors who once populated the public street, no hope exists for competing with Aramark—Fenway Park’s official concessionaire—outside of several key entry points into the park.

Fenway Concession Yawkey Way

“I hope that the surviving civil law suit is won by the bidder who was shut out by the sweetheart deal-making,” Sullivan tells Breitbart Sports. “The judge in that case didn’t sound like he was buying that Yawkey Way is a blighted urban area. This was beyond anything I ever saw as IG. It took place while the former BRA administration was packing its bags at the end of Mayor Menino’s last term of office.”

The deal, implemented hours after the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series and weeks before the mayor’s departure from office, received muted coverage in the local press. Red Sox owner John Henry owns the Boston Globe, the director of the BRA who approved the deal worked as an on-air personality for the city’s top news-radio station, and the baseball team hired a top assistant to then Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to work on the project.

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