SBJ/April 16-22, 2012/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.

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