Aside from a few home run balls, the airspace above Lansdowne Street never saw many visitors before the Red Sox built their premium seats atop the Green Monster in 2003. The 269 seats, and 100 standing-room positions, were a spectacular addition to the Fenway experience. Still, the space does belong to the City of Boston, and it’s only fair that the team pay a reasonable price to use public property. The team’s current deal for the airspace, as well as the use of Yawkey Way on game days, expires at the end of the year; the Boston Redevelopment Authority needs to negotiate better terms for the city going forward.
Under the expiring deal, the city received an average of only about $186,000 a year, even as the Sox generated an estimated $5 million in additional revenues annually. In a letter to the BRA last year, the team requested extending those terms indefinitely. In defending the arrangement, Sox management cited the team’s $56.7 million in property, sales, and meals tax payments since 2002, and the fact that unlike many other major league cities, Boston has never given the team a public subsidy.
But those aren’t good reasons for the city to accept a deal that’s overly generous to the Red Sox. Following the law isn’t a favor; nobody is entitled to a lollipop just for paying their taxes. And while it’s true that Boston hasn’t subsidized the team, there is no reason why the city should sacrifice revenue because of poor decisions in other cities.
Instead, Boston should seek a somewhat larger share of the team’s profit from using city land, while holding the line against any deal that ties the city’s hands in perpetuity. The Sox are a valued part of the community, and contribute immensely to the city’s reputation and tax coffers. The goal shouldn’t be to bleed them dry. But the city and team should be able to agree to a more equitable split.