Red Sox’s blueprint
The Boston Red Sox, newly minted as 2018 World Series champions, and parent company Fenway Sports Group will take another major step toward further annualizing their business with their development of a new 5,000-seat theater adjacent to Fenway Park.
The Fenway Theater, being developed in partnership with Live Nation and slated to open in either late 2020 or early 2021, will be located behind the right-field bleachers at Fenway Park at the corner of Lansdowne and Ipswich streets. The currently undeveloped site has been used primarily for parking and TV trucks.
Fenway Sports Group will own the new year-round theater while Live Nation will take a lead role in programming the venue. The two sides have formed a new joint venture, Fenway Music Co., that will operate the Fenway Theater as well as the smaller House of Blues Boston across from the site on Lansdowne Street. In addition to music, the two sides are contemplating a variety of events including comedy, esports and community gatherings.
The move comes as a direct outgrowth of a highly successful summer concert business that Live Nation and Fenway Sports Group have operated since 2003. In that time, roughly 150 total concerts have taken place — performers this year included Zac Brown Band, Billy Joel and Pearl Jam — reviving Fenway Park as a major concert venue following a 30-year lapse under prior Red Sox owners.
“Our live music business has really taken off, particularly in the last five, six years, and this represented an opportunity to work with a key partner in Live Nation to extend that business,” said Red Sox President and Chief Executive Sam Kennedy, who met with Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino in Los Angeles during the World Series regarding the Fenway Theater effort.
The theater is a major step in the so-called “Fenway 3.0” initiative in which the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group are exploring options beyond the ballpark itself into other neighborhood development opportunities.
“We’re now looking at the highest and best use for a lot of the other parcels that we own [around Fenway Park], and there’s also a definite need for other things like hotel, office, retail, residential,” Kennedy said.
Formal efforts to develop the Fenway Theater — such as architectural plans and permitting with the city of Boston — are still in their formative stages. But once it opens, the venue will seek to occupy an underserved niche among Boston indoor venues in which there are few choices between the 2,200-person capacity of the House of Blues Boston and 19,580-seat TD Garden.
“This project really expands the type of events we can take on in the market,” said Don Law, president of Live Nation New England. “At 5,000 seats, that’s a size venue where shows that previously were going to outside places like Worcester and Lowell [Mass.] can now be right in the city and at an iconic location like Fenway Park.”
Law also predicted other MLB team owners will quickly be examining what Fenway Sports Group and Live Nation are doing.
“If I were a baseball team owner, I would be looking at this model,” he said. “With the kind of size this has and what you can do throughout the year, it has a lot of flexibility.”