The Boston Red Sox recently completed a three game series against the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital. The Sox took two out of three against the lowly Nationals in a relatively unremarkable series—with one exception.
Thanks to the droves of the fans of Red Sox Nation that follow the Sox all across the country, the Nationals recorded three consecutive days of their biggest crowds ever at Nationals Park.
Nationals Park opened for the 2008 season and drew an average of 29,005 fans per game. Due in part to the struggling, but mostly the fact that the Nationals (in case you haven’t noticed) are really bad, attendance has dropped to 22,343 per game.
Opening after 34 years without baseball in D.C., Nationals Park was a $611 million investment made to bring America’s Pastime back to the capital. While the Nationals organization is currently in very dire straights and could glean a great deal from observing how the Red Sox operate, they have one thing that the Sox should pay close attention to.
A shiny, new ballpark.
There are a great deal of baseball purists who relish the antiquity of Fenway Park, the last remaining mainstay from old-time baseball. Every Red Sox fan knows the tale of the historic landmark.
It opened in 1912, just days before the Titanic sank, and has housed baseball legends for nearly a century. The list of Hall-of-Famers is as remarkable as the park they played in.
And in the large picture, Fenway Park remained very much unchanged. Only recently, since the John Henry/Tom Warner/Larry Luccino partnership bought the Red Sox, has the dynamics of the park changed. Yet with all of the changes and face-lifts, Fenway remains one of the smaller parks in the league, but with more demand for tickets than any other city.
I have only been to one other park besides Fenway (where I have visited about a dozen times), and it was the Nationals Park in Washington. The stadium is absolutely stunning, and not just because of the flat-screen televisions that are scattered at every turn.
Nationals Park features everything that fans and players would put into a “suggestions for improvements” box at Fenway. In addition to a much more clean and spacious interior, the concessions and restrooms are more modern and much more available. The walkways, entrances and exits are designed to get massive amounts of people in and out of the ballpark as quickly as possible.
Almost the entire Sox roster had never been to Nationals Park before, and all were taken by the modernity of the place. Some were saying that the visitors’ clubhouse was bigger and better equipped than the home clubhouse at Fenway.
I appreciate the nostalgia of Fenway Park as much as anyone, and nothing can replace the memories of the old stadium. But it is time that the Red Sox put the Friendly Confines to rest and build a stadium that reflects two recent World Series titles and a bevy of young talent.
The Sox recently sold out their 500th straight game at Fenway. The popularity of the Red Sox has stretched so far that there will always be a demand for the tickets, and as soon as John Henry & Co. add more seats, they will immediately get bought up and sold out.
The Sox plan for a new ballpark should be centered on opening in 2013, which means that the original Fenway will be in operation for exactly 100 years. The new stadium can have more seats and concessions, but with roughly the same dimensions of the old park, including the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole.
If the new park had only 5,000 more seats, that would mean that over 400,000 more people would be able to see the Sox play. We all love Fenway, but it is not going to last forever, and they should take advantage of the 100th anniversary as a way to market a new park and show the fans that they truly appreciate Red Sox Nation.
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