Before purchasing the Los Angeles Dodgers for $430 million in 2004, Frank McCourt had interest in becoming owner of his hometown team, the Boston Red Sox.
The Watertown native, having been the grandson of a Boston Braves co-owner in addition to the man in charge of the McCourt Company, a large asset and investment firm that specialized in real estate, had his eyes on purchasing the Sox when the club went up for sale in late 2000.
Two decades prior to that, McCourt had taken over several acres of land in South Boston, or more specifically, the Seaport District, that had once been an abandoned waterfront rail-yard and converted that land into parking lots.
With that property, McCourt envisioned a new ballpark for the Red Sox had he successfully come out on top in the bidding war.
“Great site for a ballpark,” McCourt told the late, great Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe in 2004. “We thought so. HOK [Sport in Kansas City, which builds ballparks] told me it was the single best ballpark site in America. And they designed Pac Bell (Oracle Park in San Francisco). We believed it was a great site, but not everyone agreed.”
Thanks to a rendering from StadiumPage.com, we can see what a major-league ballpark in the Seaport District would potentially look like.
At the time, McCourt owned approximately 25 acres of land in the area, and he intended on using 10 of them for the ballpark.
“It’s a prime piece of real estate, and we have an idea about how it could be used to anchor the team in Boston,” McCourt said in 2001. ”It’s snug, but it fits.”
The lot was also conveniently within close proximity of several transportation hubs in the city, including South Station and the Massachusetts Turnpike. That is something McCourt and his aides made sure to point out to local government and business officials as well as reporters.
A las, then-Boston mayor Thomas Menino and then-Red Sox CEO John Harrington never publicly backed McCourt’s ballpark proposal. In fact, at least two of the seven bidding groups had looked into ballpark sites in the South Boston area, according to The Boston Globe’s Meg Vaillancourt.
As it turns out, McCourt was really no where close to successfully winning the bid for the Red Sox, as the club, as well as Fenway Park and New England Sports Network, were sold to a group consisting of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino for a whopping $700 million in December 2001.
The value of the Red Sox has only skyrocketed since Henry and Co. took over nearly 19 years ago, while McCourt went on to use the Seaport land he owned as collateral to help finance his $430 million purchase of the Dodgers from News Corp.’s Fox Entertainment Group in January 2004.
Despite decent on-the-field success, McCourt’s tenure as Dodgers owner was rather tumultuous. So much so that the Dodgers had to file for bankruptcy in June 2011 before McCourt agreed to sell the club for more than a record-setting $2 billion to a group consisting of the Guggenheim Partners, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, and former Braves and Nationals president Stan Kasten among the others the following March.
McCourt still has a vesting interest in professional sports, as he purchased French soccer club Olympique de Marsielle for about $45 million in 2016.
Per Forbes’ latest MLB valuations from earlier this month, the Dodgers and Red Sox today are the second and third-most valuable franchises in baseball behind only the New York Yankees. It would be interesting to see what those valuations would look like had McCourt been successful in purchasing the Red Sox rather than the Dodgers.
If he had been successful in purchasing the Red Sox, it also would have been fascinating to see what McCourt’s Seaport ballpark proposal would look like in real time.
The thought of the Red Sox calling a ballpark outside of Fenway Park home is odd, to say the least. There have been times where I wished the Sox played in a modern, more comfortable stadium, but at the same time, I understand the desire to keep the team at Fenway. It’s a historic relic at this point that deserves to be preserved.
Still, the allure of the Red Sox playing in a location that could offer great skyline views of the city from a different vantage point is certainly something to ponder, especially since the land in South Boston once owned by McCourt and now owned by developer John B. Hynes and Morgan Stanley remains mostly untouched.