SBJ/April 16-22, 2012/In-Depth

Print All
  • Elder statesman

    Baseball’s distinguishing element, the argument goes, is its deep, continuous connection to history. It’s why the sport’s records matter more than those in other sports. It’s why the steroids issue loomed larger in baseball than any other sport. It’s why debates over the Baseball Hall of Fame spark more passion than arguments over other halls.

    So the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park in Boston, set for Friday with a game for the hometown Red Sox against the archrival New York Yankees to be played in throwback uniforms, is perhaps the ultimate celebration of what makes the sport what it is.

    The oldest facility in any of the major U.S. sports leagues still in active and continuous use, Fenway Park also remains the quirkiest, most unusual ballpark in MLB, most identified by the 37-foot-by-240-foot wall in left field dubbed “The Green Monster.”

    “The Fenway Experience” has been an inspiration for dozens of other newer facilities, and has sparked its own literary subgenre with writers such as John Updike famously dubbing Fenway “a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark.”

    Billboards dotted the outfield wall as the Red Sox played this game at Fenway Park in 1917.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox
    Fenway Park reaching the century mark also contains an unlikely comeback story that on paper would probably be too unrealistic for Hollywood scriptwriters. Born misshapen into an asymmetrical Boston city block, Fenway Park saw plenty of early Red Sox success with four World Series titles between 1912-18. The ballpark was then expanded in 1933, leveled by fire the following year, quickly rebuilt, saw decades of on-field heartbreak and fan malaise, ultimately fell into shabby disrepair in the 1990s, surprisingly dodged a wrecking ball, and then was famously restored and expanded over the past decade amid a staged, $285 million renovation effort.

    Now entering its second century, Fenway Park is still the fourth-smallest ballpark in MLB, holding larger seating capacities than only Miami’s new Marlins Park, the O.Co Coliseum in Oakland and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., the latter two of which have tarped-over seating sections. But Fenway now has a stronger infrastructure and generates more revenue than many competing facilities less than half its age.

    “It’s played a role in the unfolding story of America,” said Red Sox President and Chief Executive Larry Lucchino, referring in part to Fenway Park’s recent placement on the National Register of Historic Places, a move that helps solidify its future as a protected landmark. “It has that special allure and charm that by design and by definition is not easily replicated.”

    Friday’s game will be the focal point of an ongoing anniversary celebration taking place over the spring and early summer. And while there already has been plenty of commemorative product released, including a coffee-table book from the Red Sox and MLB and a documentary produced by National Geographic, the milestone for the Red Sox is more about creating a dialogue among the fan base.

    “It’s really less about message, and more about the environment we’re trying to create about the personal connection people feel to this ballpark,” said Charles Steinberg, Red Sox senior adviser. Steinberg, a long ally to Lucchino, recently returned to the Red Sox after a stint working for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. “We’re more trying to serve as a catalyst for fans to express themselves about Fenway.”

    ‘Roman’ renovation

    Much of Fenway Park’s century of history can be distilled into the recent decade-long run of renovation work by the current John Henry-led ownership group. The $285 million effort, conducted in piecemeal during the baseball offseasons and amid often inhospitable Boston winters, was unusual in many ways.

    Not only was the work not done in one big sprint, it was privately financed and involved no major rancor from public-
    Photo by: National Baseball Hall of Fame Library
    The ballpark’s entrance is shown in the top in Fenway’s inaugural season. The area has since evolved into the modern day Yawkey Way, which becomes a vibrant gathering place for Boston Red Sox fans and food vendors on game days.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox
    sector officials regarding approvals as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino remains one of the club’s most vocal advocates. The work notably carried Roman numeral designations each year, similar to how the Super Bowl is denoted.

    Instead of focusing on the word “renovation,” the Red Sox instead chose to use the word “improvement.” “Year I Improvements” were followed by “Year II Improvements,” and so on.

    “That was not by accident. We always felt this work was worthy of this kind of treatment,” Lucchino said. “We always felt we were saving one of the great venues of our time.”

    The year-by-year work, however, also carried a great deal of historical forensics to learn how Fenway operated during its earlier days so as to carry out the new work in a representational fashion, and often, to spotlight how the past was influencing the present and future. The guiding principle, often repeated by Lucchino, was a borrowing of the Hippocratic Oath for doctors to “do no harm.”

    That link between yesterday and today shows up even in small details, such as the font for lettering on the electronic sideboard that matches up with that on the hand-operated scoreboard at the base of the Green Monster.

    Still, the Red Sox for years have conducted regular focus groups, particularly among season-ticket holders, to gauge their receptiveness to additional facility changes.

    “We have repeatedly come out to them and said, ‘Are you OK with this?’ before we did anything,” said Sam Kennedy, Red Sox chief operating officer. “And admittedly, people were nervous, particularly early on.”

    FENWAY MEMORIES
    Billy and Reggie go toe-to-toe
    "The visiting clubhouse was hardly much better than a high school locker room, it was so cramped. It encouraged players to get out quickly. Whenever I see the visiting dugout today, I still think of Billy [Martin] and Reggie [Jackson] going at it on national TV, and how Billy used the posts supporting the roof to duck behind before sprinting around them to go after No. 44. And at one point he seems to be telling his coaches, 'OK, it's done, let it be,' and then as they back off, he bolts after Reggie again. Amazing moment. And in '75 when the league asked PR directors from non-competing teams to help out in the postseason, I was in the auxiliary press box, which was, of course, planks of wood spread across rows of upper-deck seats between first and third. I wound up sitting next to [former Red Sox star] Tony Conigliaro, who was doing TV for a local station, and that was where his seat was, after he had tried to make a comeback that year."

    -- Marty Appel
    Public relations director for the New York Yankees, 1968-1977

    The club’s current ownership, however, earned a great deal of trust with the local fan base in 2004 by breaking an 86-year-old “curse” and winning the World Series, just one year after an epic playoff loss to the hated Yankees that had even some front office executives believing the club was truly cursed.

    Fans seeing how the additional revenue created was not only going into increased player payroll but also generating real on-field results created far greater public receptiveness for further changes around Fenway.

    Also helping significantly was the 2003 installation of the Green Monster seats above the famous left-field wall. Providing a one-of-a-kind view into a baseball game, the seats immediately became — and nine years later remain — among the most coveted seats anywhere in baseball.

    And piece by piece and year by year, as more new seating areas were installed, concourses were widened and seats were replaced, Fenway steadily became transformed, and the Red Sox, too, were transformed as a business entity. The long-cursed Red Sox, for years deemed at best a “midmarket” team, are now seen as one of two economic superpowers of the game along with the Yankees, even in the current MLB climate of on- and off-field competitive balance.

    “We didn’t ever hide behind the fact that we were going to market aggressively and sell aggressively, but also use that money to help fund payroll,” Kennedy said. “That level of candor with the fans, I think, has helped a lot.”

    Baltimore ties

    Fenway Park is quintessentially Boston, like all good ballparks directly reflecting the spirit and character of its home city, with its traditional feel and unique, individualistic style. But the facility in many ways is intrinsically linked with Baltimore, its rival 400 miles down Interstate 95.

    Babe Ruth, one of Baltimore’s most famous sons, played for six seasons at Fenway before his famous transfer to the Yankees and was a key cog in three of the four early World Series titles for the Red Sox. Another hall of famer who pounded the early Green Monster, Jimmie Foxx, also hails from Sudlersville, Md., directly across the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore.

    Much more recently, Fenway Park was a key model for the design and construction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The idea championed in the late 1980s by Lucchino, then an Orioles executive, was to bring the old-style, baseball-centric charm of places like Fenway to Baltimore, but with modern amenities. The idea worked to spectacular success, setting off a historic two-decade development sprint of retro-themed ballparks that only now has veered in a different direction with this month’s opening of the futuristic Marlins Park.

    FENWAY MEMORIES
    A very frigid broadcasting debut
    "In the hotel room the morning of the game, I thought, 'You know, I'm gonna be working for the network, I'll be in a really nice glass-enclosed booth, so why do I need a topcoat and hat and gloves? They'd only get in the way.' So I left everything in the hotel room. So when I got to Fenway Park, and it's been rearranged since, there was a press box. And a roof. And I'm looking for the 'radio booth' and the writers point to the roof. And there's an engineer at a card table with a little console and a microphone and 50 yards of cable. And that was going to be my work area. So the 50 yards of cable helped, because at least I was on the roof at midfield, so if anybody moved down the line or up the line, I could walk along the roof with my microphone. Terrifying. Well, of course, it got colder and colder and colder, the wind was blowing off the river and it got dark and they had to turn the lights on. And I'm on the roof at Fenway Park in November wearing just a suit jacket. I went home afterward and I was heartsick. I could barely move my jaw, I was so cold. And I felt like, 'Here was my great chance, and I muffed it.'"

    -- Vin Scully, who began his broadcasting career Nov. 12, 1949, providing the play-by-play for CBS Radio for a Boston University-Maryland football game at Fenway Park

    When Lucchino and partners Tom Werner and John Henry acquired the Red Sox in early 2002, they leaned heavily on Lucchino’s experience in Baltimore to infuse a steady series of improvements and modernizations to Fenway.
    “There’s a real interesting and poignant irony that Camden Yards is now influencing the modernization of Fenway given how much Fenway influenced the creation of Camden Yards,” Lucchino said.

    That symbiosis between the two facilities is in fact now cycling around a third time. Janet Marie Smith, a longtime Lucchino aide now working for the Orioles after playing an instrumental role in the Fenway renovations, is using the massive success of the Red Sox creating additional party and group seating areas to locate and develop similar opportunities in Baltimore.

    “We’re now trying to find more social areas around the ballpark at Camden Yards,” Smith said, referring in part to the Orioles’ new roof deck above the center-field batter’s eye, and modifications to the ballpark’s right-field flag court. “We learned in places like Boston what big hits those areas now are.”

    Industry envy

    Though baseball’s run of new ballpark development of the last two decades is now nearing an end, the staged rehabilitation of Fenway has created a working model for virtually every other MLB market in addition to Baltimore.
    It’s now hard not to see a ballpark, even ones that are still in the infancy of their life spans, not pushing each offseason to have some type of significant new amenity or feature for the following spring.

    “In my view, Fenway Park is perhaps the most magical venue in American sport,” said Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter. “That Fenway Park experience — from Yawkey Way to the Green Monster seats — were significant inspirations inside the design of Target Field.”

    Wrigley Field is perhaps at the very top of the list of MLB venues influenced directly by Fenway, as the 98-year-old Chicago venue carrying its own slate of physical challenges is now aggressively pursuing its own dramatic renovation to enable a second century of use.

    Because of all this, Lucchino and other Red Sox executives have routinely been asked to make themselves available to other teams for advice and counsel.

    “What we’ve learned here is that Fenway is its own living, breathing thing,” Lucchino said.

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • Ownership group becomes progressive force

    Fenway Park’s centennial isn’t the only big anniversary being celebrated by the Boston Red Sox this year.

    The 2012 season also marks a decade since the Fenway Sports Group ownership group of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino merged their interests and purchased the Red Sox, setting in motion the franchise’s current run of success and the restoration of Fenway.

    Though now widely considered one of the most progressive and potent ownership groups in professional sports, the early days of the triumvirate were anything but easy or placid.

    Henry, a futures trader and Florida Marlins owner who soured on hopes of getting a new ballpark built in the Miami area, tried unsuccessfully with Lucchino in late 2001 to buy the then-Anaheim Angels. Henry then soon joined a developing effort from Lucchino, a departing San Diego Padres executive, and Werner, a former Padres owner and TV executive behind blockbuster hits such as “The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne,” to buy the Red Sox.

    John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have delivered for Red Sox fans and their business practices have been mirrored throughout baseball.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox
    The Red Sox were being sold by the Yawkey Trust that had held the team for nine years following the deaths of club owner Tom Yawkey and his wife, Jean. The transaction was poised to set a benchmark as the most expensive team sale ever. Werner in particular was amassing as much financial muscle for the bid as he could, and Lucchino played a key role in brokering the construction of the new and enlarged group. The eventual $700 million deal did in fact set a record for the most lucrative baseball team sale, a mark that would stand for nearly eight more years. But the purchase still arrived with controversy.

    The Yawkey Trust, as a charitable organization, was financially required to seek out the highest bid, and technically, two rival offers were said to be richer than the Henry-Werner-Lucchino proposal. Both of those, however, were likely to run into league approval issues as MLB clearly favored the Henry-led group.

    After weeks of frantic back-and-forth negotiations and threats of litigation, MLB in January 2002 struck an agreement with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office that ultimately paved the way for the Henry group to gain the Red Sox. And that deal was part of a larger, historic triple play of franchise shuffling that saw Henry get the Red Sox and sell the Marlins to Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria, and Loria sell the Expos to Major League Baseball.

    A decade later, the Expos are now re-established in Washington, D.C., as the Nationals in a new ballpark under owner Ted Lerner, the Marlins are now the Miami Marlins and also are playing in a new ballpark, and Fenway Sports Group has repositioned the Red Sox and Fenway Park as industry trailblazers and two-time World Series champions.

    “A lot of people criticized me at the time about how it all came down,” said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. “But now, after the [Henry] group has two titles and saved Fenway, I rest my case. People now come up to me and say, ‘You did the right thing.’”

    Fenway Park served as an early and important ideological foundation to seal the bonds between Henry, Werner and
    Lucchino, and had in fact served as a key impetus for Werner to launch the Red Sox bid prior to the arrival of Henry and Lucchino.

    “We were the only group [bidding for the team] that was predisposed to saving Fenway. Everybody else was proposing a new building. We were not unfamiliar with how ballparks were built, having done it before,” including in Baltimore with Camden Yards and in San Diego with Petco Park, Lucchino said. “We simply didn’t want to change the basic layout of what Fenway was and is.”

    Fenway Sports Group has used its initial success reviving the club and ballpark as a powerful springboard into numerous other ventures, including motorsports with Roush Fenway Racing, English Premier League soccer with the 2010 purchase of Liverpool FC, and sports marketing through a multilevel partnership with NBA superstar LeBron James.

    And the trio of Henry, Werner and Lucchino has since been replicated to a degree in Los Angeles, where Guggenheim Baseball Management is poised this month to close on a record-shattering $2.15 billion purchase of the Dodgers. Like Henry and Fenway Sports Group, Guggenheim features a low-profile financial executive in Mark Walter atop the organizational chart. Guggenheim partner Magic Johnson is comparable to Werner as a more outgoing brand advocate with deep Los Angeles ties. And Lucchino shares plenty of similarities with Stan Kasten, another hard-charging industry veteran who will run the Dodgers’ day-to-day operations.

    The decade of Fenway Sports Group, however, will not be a focal point of the Fenway celebrations this spring and summer.

    Said Lucchino, “What we’re celebrating is the Fenway experience, its history, and its deep connection with the fans, and its connection across generations.”

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • All-Star Game a memorable night of tributes

    For all the varied celebrations planned for Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary, there’s one thing the Boston Red Sox weren’t able to have: this summer’s MLB All-Star Game. And it chafes team executives.

    “That’s definitely still a tender spot,” said Larry Lucchino, Red Sox president and chief executive.

    This summer’s All-Star Game instead will be held at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, in part fulfillment of a pledge MLB Commissioner Bud Selig made in 2006 after Jackson County, Mo., voters approved funding toward a $250 million renovation of Kauffman Stadium.

    The 1999 event featured on field the nominees for baseball’s All-Century team.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox
    The Red Sox tendered a formal application to the league for the 2012 All-Star Game, running into not only the competing Royals bid but a historically large spate of other clubs clamoring for a midsummer classic.

    “I understand the benefit coming to Kansas City,” Lucchino said. “We’d like to have another one here, but the timing won’t likely ever be as poetic as it would have been this year.”

    Still, Fenway Park has played host to the All-Star Game in 1946, 1961 and 1999, one of three active ballparks to have played host to the event three times.

    The 1999 game in particular remains one of the most memorable in baseball history. Immediately prior to the game, MLB featured on field the nominees of the All-Century Team, a large-scale effort the league conducted with longtime sponsor MasterCard to identify the all-time greats of the game. Since the team included both active and retired players, the effort represented perhaps the greatest collection of baseball talent ever assembled in one place.

    Red Sox legend Ted Williams, part of the All-Century team, by this point 80 years old and battling multiple health issues, threw out the first pitch of the All-Star Game. Williams then spent an emotional and unscripted 25 minutes on the field greeting the fellow stars who revered him as baseball royalty and ignored public address announcements to begin the game. Williams died less than three years later, with the game in retrospect serving as a sort of national goodbye to the iconic star.

    Adding to the urgency of the night was a then-developing push to replace Fenway Park.
    Fans and players alike honored Red Sox legend Ted Williams.
    Photo by: Getty Images


    Red Sox ace pitcher Pedro Martinez, in 1999 at the apex of his career, then went to the mound and struck out five of the first six hitters he faced to pace an American League 4-1 victory.

    There have been several noteworthy All-Star Games since then, but for many, the 1999 game and history and emotion involved remain the event’s standard bearer.

    “I think back often to those five days we had the All-Star Game events here, and it just turned out great,” said Dick Bresciani, Red Sox vice president emeritus and historian and former public relations executive for the club. “The question we had going in, though, was whether we could even pull it off. We shadowed the Rockies the prior year when the game was in Denver, and admittedly, it made me nervous. There was so much more space there, and there was so much that had to be done. But the league was terrific to work with, and the game turned out to be a huge success.”

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • Fenway gets saved from the wrecking ball

    Viewed strictly through the prism of 1999, it’s shocking that Fenway Park not only is still standing, but restored with more than $285 million of new renovations.

    The spring of that year, then-Boston Red Sox Chief Executive John Harrington said “it would be easier to straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa” than it would be to save Fenway.

    Harrington in many ways was codifying a conventional wisdom quickly rippling not only through Boston, but all of baseball. The game then was fully in the midst of a stadium development boom sparked in large part by Baltimore’s Camden Yards, with a spate of new facilities coming online blending old-school architecture and design as well as, crucially, modern amenities.

    In this 1999 photo, former Red Sox CEO John Harrington (left) shows MLB Commissioner Bud Selig a model of a ballpark he proposed to build adjacent to the existing facility.
    Photo by: AP Images
    Fenway, meanwhile, at that point was simply old and getting left behind. While structurally sound, the ballpark throughout the 1990s was visibly deteriorating amid peeling paint, broken seats, poor drainage, outdated technology and a host of other issues. Harrington, among others, dismissed a substantive rehabilitation of the existing facility as simply too cost prohibitive and disruptive to ballpark operations during the baseball season.

    “The cost-benefit analysis at that point was certainly in favor of a new ballpark, modeled directly after Fenway,” said Dick Bresciani, Red Sox vice president emeritus and historian and formerly a longtime public relations executive for the club.

    The key question, however, was where to put it. Earlier in the 1990s, a less developed push by Boston-area leaders to replace Fenway began to focus on a downtown sports and entertainment complex that would contain new homes for the Red Sox and New England Patriots, and a new convention center. The Boston Convention & Exhibition Center now sits in that area, but the sports teams ultimately would not join it there.

    When will Fenway Park be replaced by a new stadium?
    Never 35%
    More than 20 years from now 29%
    11-20 years 20%
    6-10 years 11%
    Within 5 years 2%
    Not sure / No response 3%
    Which is the more iconic ballpark?
    Fenway Park 50%
    Wrigley Field 46%
    Not sure / No response 4%
    Source:Turnkey Sports Poll, March 2012. The poll, conducted each month by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal, surveys more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.
    By 1998, the club was overtly signaling desires for a new ballpark adjacent to the existing Fenway, and the following May it formally unveiled plans for the “new” Fenway Park, closely mimicking the basic dimensions and design of the original but adding luxury boxes, nearly 10,000 seats and other updated features. The ballpark was to be built directly adjacent to the existing facility, with a goal of opening in 2003, and carried a then-hefty projected price tag of $545 million.

    The proposal and growing possibility of the end of the original Fenway Park helped infuse an added layer of emotion that summer to the 1999 MLB All-Star Game played at Fenway Park.

    The plan for a new Fenway Park, however, was based in part on seizing private land through eminent domain. And given the rapid revival of the Fenway neighborhood, the price tag to obtain the needed land quickly soared beyond all original estimates, and public-sector support soon began to waver. A group of preservationists dubbed “Save Fenway Park!” also banded together to fight the replacement push, though their influence on the matter remains something of debate.

    Still, all of the bidders for the Red Sox during the 2000-01 sale of the team, save the John Henry-led group that eventually completed the purchase, based their pursuits of the club on building a new Fenway Park.

    “John Harrington was a sensational steward of the franchise, but on this one, I think he received some poor advice,” said Larry Lucchino, Red Sox president and chief executive, regarding the replacement of Fenway. “We felt very strongly the facility could be saved and revived.”

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • Will sellout streak continue throughout historic season?

    For all the renovation work and memorable events at Fenway Park over the years, one thing perhaps stands out more than anything else to Boston Red Sox executives: the club’s active Fenway Park sellout streak of 712 games.

    The Red Sox refer to the sellout streak as a “fan’s record” versus one set by the team.
    Photo by: Getty Images
    The streak, started in May 2003, now stands as by far the longest in MLB history and the third-longest ever in U.S. professional sports behind an active streak of 844 games and counting by the Class A minor league Dayton (Ohio) Dragons, and an 814-game mark set by the Portland Trail Blazers between 1977-95.

    The Red Sox have had some comparative advantages relative to the Dragons and Trail Blazers, such as two World Series titles, a constant stream of star players, and nine visits every year from the ever-popular New York Yankees. But the Fenway Park streak has also been amassed with far higher seating capacities than in Dayton or Portland, with some of baseball’s highest ticket prices, and with some on-field ignominy such as last September’s epic collapse from the playoff race.
    “The streak is something in which we absolutely take great pride, and with the anniversary in particular this year, this is a hugely important season for us,” said Sam Kennedy, Red Sox chief operating officer.

    To that end, the club has consistently referred to the mark as a “fan’s record” as opposed to one held or set by the team.

    But with two straight non-playoff years and a historically large run of poor weather in 2011, increasing speculation has centered on when the epic Red Sox streak will end. Furthermore, media speculation has centered on whether the club is papering the house, or whether it is artificially keeping the streak alive by keeping ticket prices below market value and shifting a fair amount of the sales risk to the secondary market.

    Club executives deny the first charge, while acknowledging they have held the line on ticket pricing to maintain affordability, with 2012 pricing staying flat compared with last year.

    “The streak will definitely end,” Kennedy said. “We know this. It’s a question of when. But we cannot paper the house or resort to a bunch of gimmicks. Here, it’s about baseball. And the idea is to keep that bond with the fans tight as long as we can.”

    SOLD OUT
    Longest sellout streaks by number of games in each major league:
    League Games Franchise Started
    NBA 814 Portland Trail Blazers 1977-95
    MLB 712 Boston Red Sox 2003-current
    NHL 487 Colorado Avalanche 1995-2006
    NFL 358 Washington Redskins 1966-current
    Note: Figure for the Red Sox does not include postseason play, while figures for the other leagues do reflect playoff games. Through April 3
    Source: SportsBusiness Journal research

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • Concessionaire serves up Fenway tradition

    The Boston Red Sox have contracted with only two primary food vendors over the past 100 seasons at Fenway Park. If you throw consolidation into the mix, one continuous company has run general concessions at Fenway since the ballpark opened in 1912.

    Aramark and the old Harry M. Stevens, the company it purchased 17 years ago, have provided consistency and stability in food operations since the park opened, an impressive run considering the competitive nature of the sports food business.

    Aramark bought Harry M. Stevens in December 1994 and took over Fenway’s food and retail starting with the 1995 season, as well as facility services — the cleaning and maintenance of the ballpark. Seven years later, in 2002, Aramark took over Fenway Park’s premium food service from a local firm. The switch coincided with plans by the Red Sox’s new ownership group to expand the ballpark’s high-end areas with more suites, club seats and lounges.

    As part of the deal to buy Harry M. Stevens, Aramark assumed the old vendor’s financial stake in the Red Sox. At the time, Aramark owned roughly 17 percent of the team and was its largest minority shareholder. In 2001, Aramark attempted to buy the Red Sox, but lost out to John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, and sold its shares to that group.

    The Big Concourse is one of the new concepts Aramark has recently introduced at Fenway, as it balances the need for new food and beverage options with the ballpark’s history.
    Photo by: Michael Ivins / Boston Red Sox
    Over the past 10 years, ownership has been aggressive in upgrading the facility, spending $285 million in stadium renovations. It would be difficult to pinpoint Aramark’s share of financing those improvements, said Marc Bruno, president of Aramark Sports and Entertainment, but it’s safe to say the vendor has spent tens of millions of dollars to help keep Fenway up to par with modern MLB facilities.

    The list of improvements stretches from the Big Concourse, a 40,000-square-foot concessions space behind center field and right field built prior to the 2003 season, to this year’s new addition, The Royal Rooters Club: Home of the Nation’s Archives, a revamped destination on the ballpark’s second level behind the right-field seats. Aramark will manage the club, Fenway’s fourth premium dining space.

    The challenge for building new food stands and destinations at Fenway Park over the past 10 years has been to maintain a consistently retro feel to those structures at the same time Aramark introduces new technology to improve speed of service for the fans.

    For example, new digital menu boards at concession stands by Gate D have been replicated to look like the ballpark’s old static signs, Bruno said. As per the team’s mandate, everything new has to look old, said Rich Roper, Aramark’s regional vice president in Boston.

    “The fascinating thing is in most places when you do something new, you want to make it look shiny,” Bruno said. “That’s not necessarily different here, but we also want to make sure that it blends into the rest of the park … which is something special.

    “Some people consider the age of Fenway an obstacle, but from our perspective, we have been able to work with a visionary ownership group to present the ideas and to continue to expand the offerings so it’s a place people want to come to day in and day out,” he said.

    Aramark’s food operation at Fenway covers Yawkey Way, a street outside the park that is closed to vehicles on game days and set up with food and drink stands. It opens two hours before the first pitch. Aramark controls all Yawkey Way concessions and splits revenue with the Red Sox.

    The success of Yawkey Way has worked its way south to Florida, where Aramark runs the food at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox’s new spring training facility in Fort Myers. The Taste of Fenway South, with concessions and tents outside the park, feeds off the original Boston version.

    One food concept Aramark brought to JetBlue Park is new in Boston this year. The Taste of Fenway food truck, one of three mobile food units Aramark is managing this year in MLB, will be parked at Yawkey Way this season, selling Fenway Franks and lobster rolls. The red truck also will go to some of the city’s other popular tourist attractions on non-game days, Roper said.

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • More than just baseball drives ballpark’s revenue

    Staging regular non-baseball events at Fenway Park is now a core tenet of the Fenway Sports Group business model, with concerts, hockey, soccer and other events frequent occurrences at the ballpark, each key revenue drivers to expand upon a Boston Red Sox team that has been sold out continually since 2003.

    But the current ownership strategy of filling Fenway with things besides baseball represents at its core a simple amplification of what has happened there for decades.

    The 2010 Winter Classic generated rave reviews..
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox
    In Fenway’s first year in 1912, the ballpark was home to major high school football games, and in the club’s first half century was a regular spot for collegiate and professional games. Fenway Park also has held a long series of wrestling, boxing and soccer matches, major rock concerts, Catholic Masses and even a campaign speech from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.

    Then in 1963, the Boston Patriots of the upstart American Football League began the first of six seasons playing home games at Fenway, a crucial period in which the AFL solidified itself as a viable counterpart to the NFL, helped create what became the Super Bowl, and ultimately paved the way for the historic 1970 merger of the two leagues.

    The Patriots left Fenway following the 1968 season, due in part to concerns then-Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey had regarding football’s damage to the ballpark’s playing field. To this day, protecting the baseball field amid a full events calendar remains a delicate balancing act. But advancing technology in groundskeeping and facility maintenance has helped embolden the team to maintain a fervent push for more events.

    “We’ve got the venue, and it’s up to us to find the content,” said Billy Hogan, co-managing director of Fenway Sports Management, which oversees Fenway Sports Group’s non-baseball business. “Obviously, it drives additional revenue, but it also opens up Fenway to additional people who aren’t baseball fans, or haven’t been exposed that much to baseball. And hopefully, there’s crossover there.”

    Perhaps the most famous non-baseball event at Fenway in recent years was the 2010 NHL Winter Classic. Played
    The Rolling Stones played at Fenway in 2005.
    Photo by: Getty Images
    between the hometown Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, pro hockey in the shadow of the Green Monster generated rave reviews and fueled gains in sponsorship and merchandise sales for the NHL.

    “That was an absolutely electric weekend, and a real learning experience for us,” Hogan said.

    Hockey returned to Fenway this past winter, though without the aid of the NHL, as Fenway Sports Management staged a college hockey doubleheader and kept the rink up for several weeks for a series of other events. Fenway Sports Management is now positioning wintertime hockey at Fenway as a biennial event.

    Fenway Sports Management also is bringing sister company and English Premier League club Liverpool FC to the ballpark this July for an exhibition against Italian power AS Roma, and is looking to revive college football at Fenway after an extended absence. Like hockey, Fenway Sports Management hopes Liverpool exhibitions happen at the ballpark every other year. And the company will expand its role with Liverpool’s North American tour this summer from just a venue operator to tour promoter as it takes the club to other cities as well.

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • Imitation is the best form of flattery

    The influence of Fenway Park can be seen at two other ballparks within the Boston Red Sox organization.

    JetBlue Park, the team’s new spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., and Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., home to the

    The Green Monster at JetBlue Park.
    Photo by: Don Muret / Staff
    Class A Greenville Drive, both have Green Monster walls in left field and a Pesky Pole in right field. The Pesky Pole was named after former Red Sox player Johnny Pesky.

    The field dimensions of both stadiums also match Fenway Park. The same is true for a practice field in Fort Myers behind JetBlue Park, which has its own Green Monster. The idea behind replicating Fenway Park is to allow the team’s prospects working their way up the farm system to get accustomed to the quirks of the real thing in Boston.

    There are a few exceptions with regard to the Green Monster. The original wall in Boston is 37 feet high. JetBlue Park’s Green Monster wall is 43 feet high; Greenville’s is 30 feet high.

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • What’s in store for the decades ahead?

    In many ways, the future of Fenway Park lies in its past.

    With the major renovation work now complete, club officials are embarking on a less extensive, though still vital, effort to more overtly commemorate the club’s past and turn the ballpark into a living museum.

    The largest single portion of that initiative lies with the new Royal Rooters Club and Nation’s Archives at the ballpark. The 6,000-square-foot club within Fenway Park, named after an early 20th century Boston Red Sox fan club, will be aimed at the team’s longest-tenured season-ticket holders and will feature many rare pieces of club memorabilia.

    Among the items on display will be the stolen base from Dave Roberts in 2004 that helped spark the club’s historic comeback in the American League Championship Series against New York, and an old injury X-ray from franchise icon Ted Williams.

    The Royal Rooters area will not be available to all fans on game days, but will be a key spot on a ballpark tour business that already is among the best in baseball, drawing more than 250,000 visitors per year.

    The Red Sox are producing a new tour book, telling the history of Fenway Park in more detail, that will be sold as part of the tours. That book will be separate from a massive, seven-pound coffee table tome, “Fenway Park: 100 Years,” produced earlier this year by the club and MLB that is now in its second printing.

    Elsewhere in the ballpark, the same history-first theories apply as the club continues an effort initiated last season around the concourses to install showcases for trophies, pennants and other memorabilia.

    The Red Sox are also incorporating new ballpark-related technology such as digital ticketing and evaluating amenities such as mobile food ordering. Following the 2010 season, the team installed three new, high-definition video boards. But in each instance, the moves were performed more gently than in many other team markets.

    “We’re keeping our finger on the pulse of what’s happening around the industry, and are evaluating the further use of technology here,” said Jonathan Gilula, Red Sox executive vice president of business affairs. “But the main thing is to preserve and celebrate the fan experience as it is now.”

    History aside, will Fenway be able to stick around for another 100 years?

    With a decade of renovations now complete amounting to $285 million worth of work, team President and Chief Executive Larry Lucchino said Fenway easily has at least another four to five decades of life in it.

    Said Gilula: “There’s now a real mixture of ages of materials around the ballpark, of course, but the building is structurally sound. You can’t add capacity without a corresponding increase to the underlying infrastructure. So as we’ve added seats and new areas over the years, we’ve done a lot to the supporting structure that the fans don’t see.”

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • Fenway through the years

    1911
    • Red Sox owner John Taylor announces in June his intention to build Fenway Park. The Red Sox were playing their home games at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, now part of the Northeastern University campus. Groundbreaking occurs in September.

    1912

    The World Series comes to Fenway in the ballpark's first season in 1912.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox

    • In the first game at Fenway Park, held on April 9, the Red Sox defeat Harvard 2-0 in an exhibition game played during snow flurries in front of 3,000 fans.
    • The Red Sox christen the ballpark that year with a World Series win over the New York Giants.

    1914
    • The Red Sox and National League Boston Braves share Fenway Park from April 1914 until August 1915, when the Braves move into their new ballpark, Braves Field.

    The 1916 Boston Red Sox pose for a team photo.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox
    1919

    • Outside Ireland, Boston was, and is, home to one of the largest Irish populations in the world. In June, more than 60,000 people fill Fenway Park to hear a speech by the Irish Republican Army’s Eamon de Valera.
    • In December, team owner Harry Frazee sells rights to Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.

    1920
    • The ballpark’s first boxing match, held on Oct. 9, is headlined by a heavyweight bout between “Battling” Jim McCreary and John Lester Johnson.

    1926
    • Three small fires break out in the left-field bleachers on May 7 when trash and paper ignite beneath the wood-framed stands. Fans quickly extinguish the flames, but following a game the next day, the ballpark catches fire again in the same area. This time the stands are destroyed.

    1928
    • Temporary bleachers for football are installed for the first time in the left field. Boston College plays several games at the ballpark that year.

    1932
    • The first Sunday game at Fenway Park is held this season. Sunday baseball was approved in Boston three years earlier, but not at Fenway due to its proximity to a church. The Red Sox had played their Sunday games at Braves Field on Commonwealth Avenue until the law was changed.

    1933
    • Tom Yawkey buys the Red Sox and brings with him much-needed capital. Following the Red Sox season, Yawkey begins a massive reconstruction of the ballpark, including beginning to replace the two wooden bleacher seating areas in right and center field with remodeled steel and concrete sections. Several other areas of the ballpark are remodeled or introduced as part of the construction project.
    • The NFL’s Boston Redskins begin a four-year stint playing their home games at Fenway Park, defeating the New York Giants 21-10.

    1934
    Work continues on new seating as part of changes to the ballpark in 1934 that would give birth to what would become known as the Green Monster.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox

    • Only five days into the calendar year, a raging fire interrupts Yawkey’s ambitious offseason renovation of Fenway Park. The fire destroys the new seating areas down the left-field line and the center-field bleachers. An undaunted Yawkey redoubles the team’s construction efforts, pledging to have the park ready by Opening Day.
    • On April 17, an Opening Day crowd of nearly 33,000 pack into the reconstructed Fenway Park. Yawkey had spent over a million Depression-era dollars to transform Fenway Park. The project contains more than 7,000 new seats and created a dramatically altered look. In place of a 10-foot embankment known as Duffy’s Cliff and a 25-foot high fence above it, a new left-field wall that would become the Green Monster, made of concrete and tin, stands 37 feet high and features the first electronically operated scoreboard in baseball. The ballpark also has received a “Dartmouth Green” paint job throughout, taking on the characteristic color it is known for today.

    1935
    • The largest crowd to ever see a game at Fenway Park — 47,627 — turns out for a doubleheader with the Yankees on Sept. 22. Crowds of this size will never be equaled under Fenway Park’s current dimensions. More stringent fire laws and league rules after World War II prohibit crowding that was permitted in the 1930s.

    1936
    • With the prevalence of home runs increasing, a 23-foot high net is added above the left-field wall to protect pedestrians and property on Lansdowne Street.

    1937
    • A roped-off, on-field standing area in deep right and center field, where fans had been able to watch the team play, is eliminated this season as Yawkey stops permitting fans on the field during games.

    1940
    • Yawkey begins further renovations to Fenway Park that move in the right-field wall some 20 feet, shortening the home run distance for Ted Williams. The renovations also feature a new bullpen area in front of the bleachers to accommodate the home and visiting teams.
    • A Cities Services sign is erected behind the Green Monster. The sign would be replaced in 1965 by the same company, but under its new name, Citgo.

    1941
    • Helen Robinson begins her career as Fenway Park switchboard operator. Over the next 60 years, Robinson would never miss a day of work. She was at work on the day before her death in October 2001.

    1944
    • The NFL Boston Yanks begin playing at Fenway Park. The team would continue using the facility until 1948.
    • On Nov. 4, only three days before being elected to an unprecedented fourth term, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers a speech before more than 40,000 supporters.

    1946
    • The Red Sox host their first All-Star Game on July 9. Ted Williams goes 4-for-4 with two homers, a walk and five RBIs.

    1947
    • Green paint replaces advertisements covering the left-field wall. No more Calvert Owl (“Be wise”), Gem Blades (“Avoid 5 o’clock shadow”), Lifebuoy (“The Red Sox use it”) and Vimms (“Get that Vimms feeling”).
    • The Red Sox defeat the White Sox 5-3 on June 13 in Fenway Park’s first night game. The Red Sox were the third-to-last of the 16 Major League clubs competing at the time to add lights to the playing field.

    1948
    • On May 12, the first Red Sox game is televised from Fenway, on WBZ-TV.
    • The first playoff game in American League history takes place at Fenway in October.

    Ted Williams addresses the crowd as his teammates look on in a farewell ceremony after being recalled to active duty for the Korean War in 1952.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox
    1953

    • The Braves move to Milwaukee, leaving Fenway as the only major league sports stadium in Boston.
    • During the offseason, the visitors clubhouse is moved to the third-base side of the ballpark and connected to the visitors dugout via a tunnel.
    • John Kiley begins his 37-year career playing Fenway Park’s Hammond organ. The organ is still played during every game today.

    1954
    • Fenway Park’s first basketball game takes place as the Harlem Globetrotters defeat the George Mikan United States All-Stars, 61-41.

    1962
    • The lineups of both teams are posted on the left-field scoreboard for the first time. The electronic display shows the number and position of each player and is used through 1975, when a new electronic board is built on top of the bleachers in center field for the 1976 season. In addition, a row of seats is added to the roof boxes.

    1963
    Opening Day ceremonies take place in 1963 as construction is underway in the Boston skyline.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox

    • The AFL Boston Patriots begin a six-year stay at Fenway Park.

    1973
    • The Newport-New England Jazz Festival brings Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and B.B. King to play at Fenway.

    1975
    • Carlton Fisk’s World Series home run guarantees Citgo decades of media exposure because of the company’s giant sign outside the ballpark. The homer comes during the first World Series night game ever played at Fenway.

    1976
    • In addition to the new electronic scoreboard installed above the bleachers in center field, the press box is enclosed with glass, and the left-field wall is reconstructed.
    • Tom Yawkey dies in July; his wife, Jean, takes control of the team.

    Game action in 1977, the first year the Red Sox would top 2 million in annual attendance.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox
    1977

    • For the first time in its history, Fenway Park welcomes more than 2 million fans to the park for Red Sox games during the season.

    1982
    • A two-year renovation begins that includes the addition of 23 luxury boxes down the left-field line, bringing Fenway’s total to 44. New seats are built on top of the roof above both sides of the infield, and Fenway receives its first elevator. In addition, the last true bleacher seats (wooden planks without backs) are replaced.

    1984
    • NESN, the new team-owned regional sports network, makes its first broadcast from its Fenway Park studio.
    • Ted Williams’ No. 9 and Joe Cronin’s No. 4 uniforms are placed on the facade of the right-field roof, the first uniforms to be retired by the Red Sox.

    1988
    • A color video board and black-and-white message board are installed in center field, the playing field is resodded and “The 600 Club,” a glass-enclosed section of 606 stadium club seats, is added on the roof behind home plate. New broadcast booths and the press box are relocated on top of the 600 Club. In 2002, the club would be renamed the .406 club in honor of Ted Williams, who died earlier that year.

    1993
    • Shawmut Bank installs Fenway Park’s first ATM.
    • The first organized tours of Fenway Park begin, making it one of Boston’s most popular tourist destinations.

    1995
    • Aramark begins its first season as general concessionaire, taking over for Harry M. Stevens Inc., the only concessionaire the ballpark had ever had.

    1997
    • Three giant Coke bottles are added to one of the left-field light towers above the Green Monster. Coke has been a Red Sox sponsor since Fenway opened.

    1999
    • With Fenway Park set to play host to the 1999 All-Star Game, temporary press boxes are installed on the left-field and right-field roofs. After the All-Star Game, the boxes would become the K and B suites at the ballpark.
    • A proposal for a replacement for Fenway Park, made by then team-CEO John Harrington, had the team moving across Yawkey Way into a bigger, modern version of Fenway Park.

    2000
    • Before the season, a Hood milk carton is installed on the right-field light tower.
    • The Red Sox retire Carlton Fisk’s No. 27.
    • Boston developer Frank McCourt, in a pitch to buy the Red Sox, unveils a plan to build a new Fenway Park on land he owns on Boston’s Seaport.

    2001
    • A John Hancock sign is installed above the center-field scoreboard, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the franchise.
    • In December, the Yawkey Trust agrees to sell the team and stadium to a group led by John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino.

    2002
    • The Red Sox add nearly 400 seats, including 161 new dugout seats that are built on the infield side of both dugouts.
    • Temporary advertising signs are added above the Green Monster, the first advertisements on the wall since 1946.
    • The Yawkey Way Concourse, an expansion of the park onto the adjacent street, adds 25,000 square feet and doubles the space for fans on the first-base side of the ballpark.
    • Aramark sells its ownership interest in the Red Sox, resulting in a pre-tax gain of $37.9 million, and begins its first season as premium concessionaire.

    2003
    Green Monster seats were installed in 2003.
    Photo by: Boston Red Sox

    • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform the first concerts at Fenway Park in three decades, beginning a series of concerts the ballpark has held in recent years. Among those who have performed: Jimmy Buffett (2004); the Rolling Stones (2005); Dave Matthews Band and Sheryl Crow (2006); the Police (2007); Neil Diamond (2008); Dave Matthews Band and Phish, and Paul McCartney (2009); and Aerosmith and the J Geils Band (2010).
    • Green Monster seats debut above the left-field wall. Two rows of additional seats and new camera pits are constructed on the outfield end of the Red Sox and visitors dugouts. Two new rows of seats are added behind the plate. A new manual out-of-town scoreboard and advertising panels are installed on the left-field wall.
    • The team adds 269 barstool seats atop the Green Monster. The Dugout Seats are expanded beyond each dugout toward the outfield, and 87 Home Plate Seats are added by moving the backstop closer to home plate.

    Curt Schilling throws the first pitch of Game 2 of the 2004 World Series. The Red Sox would go on to sweep the Cardinals to pick up their first title in 86 years.
    Photo by: Getty Images
    2004

    • The Budweiser right-field roof deck, built on top of the original 1934 roof, features home-plate-shaped tables, seating four people each. Along with the 192 new seats, the additional space creates room for 250 standing-room patrons.
    • The decades-old Jimmy Fund sign moves to the left-field wall, a new symbol of the club’s longtime affiliation with the nonprofit organization.
    • The Third Base Concourse is refurbished with new rest rooms and concessions space. Abutting the concourse, the room formerly used as the Lansdowne Shop is renovated to create the Crown Royal Club (now the Absolut Club) premium area.
    • Eighty-six years of heartache are erased with a 3-0 win in St. Louis, as the Red Sox complete a sweep of the 100th World Series for their first championship since 1918. A parade later beginning at Fenway Park would attract 3.2 million fans along its route.

    2005
    • Henry, Werner and Lucchino announce that the Red Sox are formally committed to remain long-term at Fenway Park.
    • The left-field foul pole is dedicated as the Fisk Pole in honor of Carlton Fisk’s iconic home run versus the Cincinnati Reds in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
    • A new playing field is installed and the Red Sox clubhouse is improved.

    2006
    • The Red Sox remove the glass that had separated the .406 club from the ambience and atmosphere of Fenway Park, creating the new EMC Club and the State Street Pavilion. In the process, the club adds 1,300 seats, standing-room positions, and additional concession stands and rest rooms.
    • The right-field foul pole, nicknamed “Pesky Pole” for decades, is officially dedicated to former player Johnny Pesky, who celebrated his 87th birthday that day.

    2007
    • Jordan’s Third Base Deck, on top of the previously expanded Third Base Concourse, is constructed. The new deck provides concessions, rest rooms and space at the back of the third-base grandstand seats. Two levels below, the Yaz Door area under the third-base seating bowl is renovated and a locker room for Fenway Park’s ushers, ticket takers and security staff is built. The team uses additional space in the vicinity to build an indoor batting cage for visiting teams.

    2008
    • More than 3,000 new citizens are sworn in as Fenway Park plays host to its first naturalization ceremony.
    • Additions include more than 800 new State Street Pavilion seats, plus standing-room tickets down the first- and third-base lines, as well as the “Coca-Cola Corner” in left field.

    2009
    • The right-field roof is repaired and expanded for the season and approximately 560 seats are added to the area, along with new rest rooms, concessions and additional standing-room space with drink rails. The renovation creates the Cumberland Farms Deck. The Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck also is expanded with 28 new seats at tables.

    2010
    • On New Year’s Day, the Boston Bruins win the 2010 NHL Winter Classic, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1.
    • Forty-two years after Fenway Park’s last soccer match, Celtic defeats Sporting Lisbon, 2-1.
    • A new statue honoring “Teammates” is unveiled outside Gate B paying tribute to Red Sox greats Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams.

    2011
    • The 10-year, $285 million plan to modify Fenway Park concludes with $40 million in construction upgrades.

    2012
    • This season, the Red Sox debut the new Royal Rooters Club and The Nation’s Archives tied to the ballpark’s 100th anniversary. The club is being offered first to the longest-tenured season-ticket holders.

    Sources: Boston Red Sox, SportsBusiness Journal research

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug