Overwhelming credit should be given to the latest ownership group of the Boston Red Sox, including John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner. It was this ownership group that took control of the tradition-rich franchise in 2002 and has lead efforts to modernize historic Fenway Park.
The 2009 version of Fenway, built in 1912, is dramatically greater in aesthetic pleasure as compared to its decaying status in 2002. Seats have since been added in almost every conceivable space within the ballpark, including atop the left field wall and right field roof, expanding the park’s seating capacity from a smidgen over 33,000 to just under 40,000.
Along with increasing the seating capacity, other needed improvements have been made to reinforcing the stadium’s underlying structure, including waterproofing of the seating bowl. Concession stands have been added and upgraded in terms of their food and drink offerings, and Yawkey Way has become a congregating area to eat and drink prior to and during baseball games.
Other neighborhood enhancements have facilitated an improved atmosphere during the Henry/Lucchino/Werner ownership tenure, such as major renovations to the bars and restaurants on surrounding streets.
In spite of all of these marked improvements, the root purpose of Fenway attendance has not been upgraded: viewing a baseball game. Certain seating areas added or renovated in recent years have improved viewpoints and sight lines of the field of play, but the bulk of seating in the park has not been altered.
This means fans still contend with support poles for the upper deck, which can mean a pole separates a fan’s view of home plate in spite of a $50 price of admission.
NOTE: The photo included in the headline of this story was taken from a $50 grandstand seat on Opening Day 2009, which is not marked “obstructed view.”
"What was the final score, Joe?"
"Gee, Bill, I'm not really sure, the pole was in my way, but the clam chowder sure was good."
This would be the equivalent of attending a basketball game and not being able to view the basket. Doesn’t that seem slightly unproductive?
"These are sick seats, Joe. I love watching the guys dribble around, pass the ball, and even shoot here and there. Who cares if I can't see the hoop and need to listen for crowd noise to determine whether or not the shot went in the basket? The clams casino is out of this world!"
Other obvious and well documented problems with Fenway include the narrow width of the majority of seats, which for any average sized individual means spilling your body into another fan’s personal space for the entire game.
This can be cozy if it’s your significant other, but given the obesity in today’s society and the game time temperature which Fenway experiences during the dog days of August, it can be far from enjoyable.
Seats in certain areas of the park remain misdirected, in that sitting in the right field corner means you’re staring directly at right center field, instead of having your chair angled toward home plate.
Walkways and access ramps to the field remain relatively inconceivable for maintaining a smooth traffic flow of fans, and the passageways beneath the seats for entering and exiting the park and accessing restroom facilities are not conducive to handling more than 50 persons at any given time.
New facilities offer luxury amenities and ticket prices far beyond reach to an average baseball watching individual, which makes the preservation of Fenway somewhat palatable.
In spite of what would undoubtedly amount to a dramatic increase in the percentage of ballpark space used by luxury amenity seating and extreme ticket prices, the time has come to move on from Fenway Park and its uncomfortable seats.
In 1912, it very well may have been a serviceable venue to watch a baseball game. In 2009, it simply is not getting the job done.