Fenway Park: Should It Stay or Should It Go?

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Fenway Park: Should It Stay or Should It Go?
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

After reading a few articles recently having to do with Fenway Park and doing a small amount of research on a proposed New Fenway Park, I decided it was time for me to weigh in on the issue.

 

"It's Time to Raze Fenway Park"

Since I haven't actually been to Fenway, I'm borrowing most of the argument against the stadium from BHL's most recent piece, "It's Time to Raze Fenway Park."

Although, from media I have seen of Fenway and other stadiums, I will weigh in with my own opinion in places as well.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Fenway is economically obsolete. BHL brings up great arguments for this point, saying: "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."

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From BHL's article, this was a $50 grandstand seat on Opening Day, which was not classified as obstructed view.

Along with support poles, BHL notes that the majority of seats are too narrow, many seats down the right field line are misdirected, and walkways and access ramps are in a condition that inhibits smooth flow of fanfare throughout the stadium.

Obviously, Fenway is far behind other stadiums in terms of aesthetic value. Newer stadiums offer great amenities. Some include: wider, more comfortable seats, wider, far more spacious concourses, and modern engineering.

Fenway Park, which opened in 1912, is a victim of older, less experienced engineers. I'm not an expert on engineering whatsoever, but I can tell you that engineering has advanced a great deal since the early 1900s.

Newer stadiums have two, even three tiers of seating above the lower level, without the support poles that fans have to twist and turn to see around in such places as Wrigley, Fenway, and even the Metrodome—if you sit high enough in the upper deck.

In terms of seat layout, Fenway Park is one of the smallest stadiums in baseball, seating just under 40,000 fans.

To put that into perspective, Old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium seated over 57,000 people, and Dodger Stadium seats 56,000 people. The majority of stadiums have 40,000 or 50,000 seats, but Red Sox ownership has stated that they will not push capacity over 40,000.

Although a series of renovations to the park since 2002 will allow the Red Sox to play at Fenway for 40 or 50 more years, in the long run it's a bad idea for the team to do so.

Matt Chudoba argues that the Red Sox staying at the current Fenway, with its lack of seats, for 40 more years will ultimately raise ticket prices beyond affordability so the Red Sox can, in terms of revenue, keep up with the rest of Major League Baseball.

"A new ballpark, if anything, will lower ticket costs," Chudoba said. "A new ballpark can increase seating capacity a ton and will lower ticket prices. The ownership won't need to charge $30 for bleacher seats anymore when you have 20,000 more seats.

"The Yankees and Mets got the message. It's time for Boston to follow suit."

He couldn't be more right.

 

New Fenway Park

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Former Red Sox CEO John Harrington proposed this modernized Fenway Park idea back in 1999, but a group called Save Fenway Park! sprang up and prevented it from happening.

This new park would have been built adjacent to the current Fenway, would seat over 44,000 people, and would feature the exact same dimensions and fences.

The stadium would face the same direction as the current Fenway Park, and all the current landmarks outside the ballpark would still be seen, including the iconic Citgo sign.

During construction, small portions of the current Fenway would have to be torn down to make room, but the Red Sox would still be able to play in the current park during construction.

The old Fenway would then be converted into a baseball museum and park.

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A map showing the layout of the new, larger stadium behind the current Fenway Park.

The new, more modern ballpark would feature an entrance on Yawkey Way, which would become a pedestrian-only street between the preserved parts of old Fenway and the location of the new Fenway.

As the map illustrates, the newer stadium is far larger than the current Fenway. In fact, the new Fenway Park would have 35 percent more space and more than 10,000 more seats than the current ballpark.

New Fenway would have the same strange field layout and dimensions as the old park, including a replica Green Monster. The old Green Monster, as well as the tapestry wall and manual scoreboard would be left standing at the site of the current Fenway.

In place of the old Fenway would be Red Sox Museum, Hall of Fame, and children's center.

The Red Sox, a tradition-rich franchise, would even have a red seat where Ted Williams' 502-foot home run would have landed in the new stadium.

Overall, the stadium would have cost $545 million to build. The Red Sox, at the time, were willing to finance almost all of it.

According to the proposal, the Red Sox would have put forward $350 million for construction costs, as well as $65 million for acquiring land. Of the $545 million necessary, the Red Sox would be paying $415 million.

The public would have been asked for $50 million for traffic and infrastructure improvements, and $80 million for parking garages; $130 million in all.

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Conclusion

Fenway Park, America's most beloved ballpark, has definitely seen better days, and nobody is arguing that. The real issue here is whether Fenway Park should be replaced or not. The Red Sox ownership group doesn't seem to think so, as evidenced by recent renovations that will help the stadium last until 2050.

However, first-hand accounts from fans indicate that Fenway does not even come close to other stadiums in terms of comfort and aesthetic value. Fenway is one of only a handful of stadiums that have such outdated features as support poles blocking field sight lines.

Due mostly in part to an organization called Save Fenway Park!, the Red Sox missed out on a beautiful looking modernized version of Fenway Park, boasting all the modern amenities of new stadiums with the same familiar look of old Fenway.

Comparing what the Red Sox have right now in the current Fenway Park to what they could have had in the new Fenway Park, it looks to me that the Red Sox missed out. Big time.

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