SBJ/Dec. 14, 2009/This Week's News

Sox put cold-weather tricks to use

There’s plenty of hot air blowing through Fenway Park right now that has nothing to do with the Red Sox-Yankees feud.

As the Red Sox ready the 97-year-old ballpark for the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, they are using lessons learned from keeping workers warm during seven years of offseason stadium renovations to help with preparations.

In addition, Boston-based executives Kevin Haggerty and Rich Roper for the club’s food, retail and facility services provider, Aramark, have worked at Soldier Field and Wrigley Field in Chicago. Together with the NHL’s experience operating three outdoor games dating to 2003, they know what it takes to operate older facilities in the cold.

Boston’s average New Year’s Day temperature is 31 degrees, so the three parties developed a plan to prevent water pipes from freezing and shutting down the flow of liquid required to operate 14 permanent stands and 11 portable grill carts on the main concourse, and three of the park’s largest stock rooms for vendors.

A rendering of the Winter Classic setup at
Fenway (top); the NHL’s Dan Craig took
ice-making equipment to Boston last week.

The Red Sox covered the cost to install 35 temporary wooden doors to block entries to the seating bowl, and set up three high-powered, refrigerator-size heaters to blow hot air on the now-enclosed main concourse.

“We [focused] in on areas that are not winterized, the concourses, rest rooms and concession stands, spaces where the plumbing is normally shut off for the winter,” said Jonathan Gilula, Red Sox executive vice president of business affairs.

The heaters have been fired up since Nov. 18 and will continue operating during the Flyers-Bruins game when a sellout crowd of 38,000 fans passes through the turnstiles.

The heaters are expected to raise the concourse temperature to 75 to 80 degrees in the next two weeks before the doors are removed on game day, said Haggerty, Aramark’s resident district manager.

“That will allow us to operate as if it was baseball in the summertime, so we will have all the water we need to disperse soft drinks and boil water for hot chocolate and coffee,” he said. “Water also drives the steamers to cook soups and hot dogs. We need that supply.”

Selling food and drink in Fenway’s outfield bleachers and Green Monster seats on a winter day is a different story. Water pipes in those areas are exposed to the elements and there is no way to control the heat to keep them warm, said Don Renzulli, the NHL’s senior vice president of events and entertainment. Aramark will be limited to serving bottled and canned beverages but does have heat sources to cook hot dogs.

Managing crowd flow at concession stands throughout the park will differ compared with baseball’s leisurely pace. Aramark’s strategy to meet the crush during two intermissions includes beefing up the number of vendors roaming the stands and adding more portable carts, Haggerty said.

Aramark’s facility services division has a snow removal plan should it need to get rid of the white stuff on game day. The vendor bought 300 snow shovels and can bring 250 additional workers on site in the middle of the night to clear the stands and concourses, Haggerty said.

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