As the World Series continues, an east coast team prepares and hopes for future Fall Classics at their stadium: The Boston Red Sox are completing the final stage of renovations to Fenway Park.
New for 2011 will be the right field grandstand seats, an expanded concessions area, a renovated open will call and Gate D concourse. The highlight is the addition of three brand new HD video boards behind center field. Two of boards will be 100 feet wide.
It is the 10th year of a construction project that’s supposed to ensure Fenway Park is the home of the Red Sox for the next 30 to 40 years.
Hopefully ownership isn’t committed to that projection.
No matter the renovations, it’s like a fresh coat of paint on an aging ball park. They should really think about a new home for the Red Sox sooner rather than later.
It’s a subject that was closed when John Henry’s ownership group bought the team in 2002. Previous discussions for a new ballpark barely got further than an artist’s conception. The new ownership quickly said they would not pursue a new stadium, and instead began maximizing Fenway Park.
In 10 years, they will spend $285 million in annual facelifts for Fenway Park. Most of the upgrades were welcomed, although adding seats atop the Green Monster was seen as blasphemous at the time. Now the Monster Seats are the most coveted in the stadium.
Give ownership credit for having the cojones to make an unpopular decision. They should do it again by replacing Fenway Park.
There is a right way and a wrong way to do this. In a city where history is sacred, Fenway Park deserves to celebrated during the centennial season in 2012. It should be a year-long party to honor the legendary ball park. The focus should be on the memories created and stored within the walls. To ensure the attention is in the right place, ownership shouldn’t even suggest a new stadium for now.
But following a decompression period after the final out in 2012, ownership should turn their attention towards a new stadium.
Fenway Park’s capacity of 38,800 is the fourth lowest in Major League Baseball. It is also the lowest capacity of the large market teams.
Because of the lack of seats, the Red Sox had the highest average ticket price in 2010 at $46.46. Not bad, but $12.16 more than second place. A new stadium with more seats would make games more accessible to fans with more bargain priced tickets.
A new stadium would also include the luxury boxes so attractive to owners because they are money makers. For a franchise with the second highest payroll in baseball, Boston would become better equipped to compete with the hated New York Yankees for free agents.
The idea of a new stadium would be met trepidation. The city of Boston wants to preserve their history and there’s plenty of it within Fenway Park.
Babe Ruth started his career with the BoSox. “The Splendid Splinter” Ted Williams is arguably the greatest hitter to ever play the game. Pesky’s Pole. The memorable names scrawled inside the Green Monster. The park is a monument to the icons that played there and the sentimental value is priceless.
Many of these traditions can be retained. Original objects, like the red seat behind right field for a Ted Williams’ home run, can be transferred to the new ballpark. Or the names, like Pesky’s Pole, can be applied to the same parts in the new stadium. And while the Green Monster is irreplaceable, a new Monster with a manual scoreboard would pay homage to Fenway Park’s signature trait.
This wouldn’t be the first time Boston said goodbye to a sports monument. The Boston Garden was the home of 16 NBA Championships with legends like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Red Auerbach, and Larry Bird made their mark over the years. But the Boston Celtics are still the Boston Celtics after moving next door into the FleetCenter, now known as the TD Garden. The memories will live on in a new home.
Fenway Park can keep getting facelifts like a Hollywood actor, but the Old Ball Park keeps aging. They can keep pouring money into it, but Fenway Park is a money pit that’s approaching obsolescence when compared to today’s stadium.
The 10-year plan to upgrade Fenway Park will be complete in time for the 2011 season. The next plan should be a new ballpark.
Randolph Charlotin writes a New England Patriots blog at www.randolphc.com.
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