Boston mayoral candidate James T. Brett unveiLed a proposal last Thursday that calls for the Massachusetts Port Authority to pay for a $700 million conference center and stadium.
Brett, a Democrat state representative from Dorchester, is running against Thomas M. Menino, who took over as acting mayor this summer when Raymond F. Flynn was named U.S ambassador to the Vatican.
Brett said his proposal to build the convention center, commonly called the Megaplex, would not burden the state with increased debt and would not require the state to rely on revenues from proposed gambling casinos.
A proposal submitted by Gov. William F. Weld calls for the complex to be constructed with proceeds from a revenue bond sale. Debt service on the bonds would be secured by the profits realized by several floating casinos on the Boston Harbor.
"I have developed a plan to finance a new Megaplex, and it is a plan which does not include gambling," Brett said at a press conference. "We do not need to turn Boston into Las Vegas to pay for a Megaplex.
Under Brett's plan, Massport would sell the Megaplex bonds in lieu of several other bond issues already approved.
But Brett's proposal lacks one important ingredient -- support from the executives at Massport.
"I don't see any role for us in the financing of this project," said Stephen P. Tocco, Massport's executive director. "Brett's projected revenue streams for this financing is questionable, at best."
Brett suggested that Massport downsize the proposed Logan Airport Modernization Project and use the $400 million to $500 million in savings for the Megaplex.
"That money is slated for airport improvements," Tocco said. "Brett has been in contact with us and knows our feelings about this, but obviously he thinks he has a better idea."
Brett said that Massport should also sell Boston's Tobin Bridge to the state highway department and use the proceeds to help finance the Megaplex.
"Massport shouldn't be in the bridge business," Brett said. "Some of the bridge's sale price, which could be anywhere from $40 million and up, must go as reparations to Chelsea, East Boston, and Charlestown for the bridge's historic intrusion and for airport inconvenience. The remainder will be seed money for the Megaplex."
Tocco said Massport officials are addressing the needs of all the city's water crossings, including the Tobin Bridge, Sumner and Callahan tunnels, and the new Third Harbor Tunnel.
"If someone walks into my office and offers me $50 million for the bridge, I think I could have the deal done in about two hours," Tocco said. "But so far, there have not been any offers from the state highway department or anyone else."
The two mayoral candidates disagree about how the state will acquire the parcel of land in the South Bay section of Boston on which the Megaplex is to be built.
Under Brett's proposal, the city would swap the land with the state for the closed Boston State Hospital property.
"The idea of the land swap is just not an acceptable option for the city," said Howard Leibowitz, spokesman for Menino. The hospital parcel "should have been conveyed to the city years ago and has lost most of its value. The South Bay tract is a prime piece of land."
Brett also wants two seats added to the Massport Board of Directors that will be filled by the mayor.
"This will give the mayor and residents of Boston a strong voice in the Megaplex project as well as the construction at the airport," he said.
Brett said his plan is the best way to end the logjam that has blocked legislative approval for a "vital project for the city."
The construction and operation of the Megaplex is expected to provide 15,000 construction jobs and 13,000 permanent positions. Brett said $71 million in tax dollars will be generated during the first year alone.
Each month that construction is delayed, he said, the city will lose $100 million in new business.