Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Daily Question - 4/1 (not an April Fools Joke)

I asked Aaron and Tim Walker this question on Twitter as part of the #twalkwisdom meme and it seemed to be generating a lot of side conversations. Let's pull them all in here and get it out there.

Save Fenway Park or build a new stadium down by the waterfront? Two assumptions... the space is available and can be acquired by the team and in building the stadium they stay true to Fenway Park (field dimensions, The Wall, etc.).

Quick note: Please include how many games you see in Fenway each year and where you sit when you go in your comment... I think it'll offer an interesting perspective on the responses.


Doug Haslam said...

I see about a half-dozen games each year. Sometimes field box (thanks FiL), sometimes standing room (better than you think).
I love Fenway, and new ownership has done a great job getting the most out of the old park.

that said, it's going to have to be torn down sooner or later (prob within 25 years? Sooner?) I have gotten used to that. It's too old and the seats are small.

A new park, however, will have to retain what was great about Fenway-- cozy confines, great views from almost everywhere...

Aaron Strout said...

Jimbo - great question.

I've been to Fenway over 100 times during the course of my life (maybe closer to 200). While I'm not as much of a regular as you are since you have season ticket holder, my perspective is that history/nostalgia outweighs charm and comfort. HOWEVER, I might rethink that if I was going to 20+ games/year.

What I will tell you is that I've been to a handful of ALDS (last year w/ you), ALCS and World Series games there and what I know is there is something magical about that place during playoff times that I don't think would be present in a new "house."

As a direct comparison, think of the old "Garden" vs. the new "Garden." The new Garden is WAY nicer but doesn't have the same mystique as version 1.0. Maybe I'm just old school but that's how I roll...

Aaron | @aaronstrout

Mike said...

I would save Fenway.
At this point the ownership has shown that they really care about the legacy that comes with the stadium. The improvements that they have made over the last 5 years are incredible. I can not imagine seeing a Sox game anywhere else in Boston. I only attend a few games each year though, and sit where ever the seats are, no preference. So that may sway my vote, being that I am 6'4", the seats are not that great.

Jim Storer said...

I see 10+ games each year, usually grandstand (sec 11) and sometimes field box. Most are regular season, but I've seen some real classic post-season games (ALCS game #7 a couple years ago was quite a party).

I agree with Aaron on playoff games at Fenway Park. There's something about the way the place rocks that makes it special. It's a beautiful park, no doubt about it.

But here's the thing. The seats are horrible (both from a comfort and positional standpoint), the infrastructure sucks (obstructed seating and using a bathroom are good examples here)and it's the smallest MLB park in terms of seating capacity, making it hard for the Red Sox to "keep up with the Jones'" in the long term.

They could build a new park with identical field dimensions and lower bowl characteristics, put an open air concourse above the lower bowl and double the capacity of the upper seating without changing much that you love about Fenway Park. They'd get a heck of a lot more people through the turnstiles each year, even in a down economy (IMHO).

If you've been to games in some of the new parks, the contrast is startling. Will it be different? Yes, most likely. Will it be better for the fans? I'm willing to bet it will be.

I don't think you should hold up the old Garden/new Garden as a direct comparison. They didn't try to retain the charm of the old Garden. They wanted to build a big, multi-use box.

MLB teams have shown that you can build a ballpark that retains the charm of the old park while bringing new construction techniques and amenities that make the experience so much better. I think you'll see that with the new Yankee Stadium this year. I wonder if it's construction will speed Red Sox ownership down a similar path?

tygab said...

@DougHaslam yes, great views abound from SRO or behind the poles. ;) But I agree with you, the park simply cannot stay around much longer. I'd say 10-15 years max. It is not sized for modern Americans (height or girth), it is way underserved for restrooms, egress from the seats are very limited and they've done what they could for a corporate area and food service (State St Pavilion,etc) but could do much more with a modern park.

I think it is entirely possible to design a new park with charm and intangibles where new memories can be made. It's also possible to have a new park with no flavor at all. It's all what the architects make of the opportunity.

PS we have gone to anywhere between 5-11 games a year during the new ownership's tenure. Much better than before, but still not comfortable.

Ed Stafford said...

I'm lucky enough to get to 2-3 games a year (a couple more if I'm super lucky). I usually sit right at 1st base (sister's season tix) or next to the Sox dugout on the homeplate side.

Pride and history of Fenway aside, I think Fenway Park is as much about what happens outside the park as inside the park. Post-game celebration (even after a loss) on Yawkey Way and Lansdown, the Cask and Flagon, Beerworks, and more.. it's all part of the Heartbeat of Fenway.

Sure new traditions can be started, and Redsox Nation will live on if and when a new park is built, but there's a certain magic about Fenway that can't be recreated.

I'm sure a new park would nice and probably necessary at some point, but the thought of losing Fenway hits me like the thought of losing an old friend.

MSGiro said...

I go to about an average of 15 games a year, including a high water mark of about 30 or so during the 04 season. I understand Fenway is special. I love the neighborhood feel. I love my BU parking pass. I love the sight of the green grass at night when you come up from the concourse. I love the smell and I love the constant buzz from the crowd. Jim, you hit on my biggest complaint; the seats. They are the worst and for years I've been promised new grandstand seats and at this point I'll settle for new seats and the same crappy sight lines.

I'm not sure I'd love a waterfront park at all. Sure it would be pretty seeing the skyline of Boston, but unless you live on the harbor, like I do, you have no idea how horrible the wind can be, which I know will have an adverse effect on a stadium in that location. Also, when it's cool this time of year, it's nearly 5-10 degrees colder there so everyone will be even more cranky and miserable. I am a major proponent of a new stadium, but I just wish it was kept in the neighborhood like originally planned (One of the few brilliant ideas John Harrington had), otherwise it's going to be called Sam Adams Stadium (at best) or Covidien Park (at worst).

JS said...

Save Fenway. I go to about 15-20games a year. 10game pack in RF Box, plus I pick up other randoms and hookups.

They NEED to rip out ALL of the seats and refit though. Ever see a game near the Pesky Pole where you're facing RF and you need to keep your head turned to the left all game? That sucks.

Also, can they 'rip the roof off the sucker'? If they could demo the upper deck and rebuild w/o the view-blocking pillars that would solve the other biggest problem with Fenway.

That being said, you can't play there forever...or can you?

Agreed with Aaron and others that there's no better place to see a big game and I've seen a lot of big games there. I've seen about 300+ games there and I've been everywhere in Fenway (including Locker Room and Press Box).


Joe said...

I'm in two season ticket groups, so I see 10 games a year at least, most in the Grandstand, Section 29, which is not so comfortable, but a great view and still great fun. I also see 4 or 5 games in the new State Street section, which is really first class, but the view of the game is not as good.

I think they should keep doing what they've been doing with Fenway, slowly rebuild it over time. Even go more radical, and completely tear down and rebuild it section by section, over several years. I don't like the idea of moving down to the waterfront. The current location is very authentic and lively. Plus, I walk to the games.

KFFBOS said...

As a guy who lived in Southie and was there when there were discussions about moving it to the waterfront I have always been behind getting rid of Fenway. Before I moved to Austin this year I was good for 10-15 games a year and I do love the history and intimacy of Fenway, but the place simply can not be sustained over time.

I've also traveled throughout the country and seen some of the great parks in San Franciso (old and new), Baltimore (old and new), Milwaukee (old and new), Montreal (ugh), Toronto (Skydome), Cleveland (Jacobs), Yankee, Shea, Marlins, Dodgers and Busch (old and new) and probably some more I'm not remembering. Over time I've seen that new parks done well (Busch, 3com and Camden) are glorious places to watch a game. However some places go overboard like Skydome and I would even put Jacobs in that lot.

Additionally, I now go to Fenway and I'm simply amazed at how much better is from all standpoints. Those of us who remember going in the 70s/80s can really attest to the work Lucchino has done on this stadium, to the point where when I see a pre-Monster Seat pic of Fenway I always laugh because it seems so natural now to have those seats. The park overall is so much better today.

My brain is split in half on this topic and always has been, therefore I've moved on from this topic because I agree with Doug, it's just a matter of time.

The question we should be pondering is when Fenway is torn down how do we ensure that the new one is a proper variation to the "little lyrical bandbox"? Is it about the size, the dimensions, the Monster? They failed at this with the BofA Fleet TD Banknorth New Boston Garden, will it happen again?


Jim Storer said...

ok - two comments about the waterfront not being good... I understand. I put that assumption in there because it was on the table when McCourt was thinking about buying the team.

I'd prefer to keep it in the Fenway neighborhood, but didn't think it was a viable option (no space).

If they could play somewhere else for two years and completely raze/re-build Fenway Park with similar look/feel/charm, but with modern amenities it'd be my #1 choice.

Derek Peplau said...

This is such a touchy subject, but here's my take: it's not a question of 'if', but 'when' the Red Sox will play in a new ballpark. Would I like them to stay there forever? If they got decent seats, yes. But if I were a betting man, I'd say it will happen within the next 15 years.

Market forces and structural issues will probably force ownership to revisit this even if they didn't already (privately) gaze down towards the Bronx in absolute envy at the Taj Mahal of baseball that has been constructed there. Current location isn’t really all that viable for a variety of reasons, but the team brand is somewhat inextricably linked with their location.

I believe they will have no choice to move, and the waterfront seems to be the best choice. Hopefully they can overcome the politics that scuttled the last deal.

It’s sad, but I’m afraid it’s inevitable.

Derek Peplau said...

Missed the initial part about # of games. The number of games I go to varies pretty widely (average is 3-5 I'd say). I sit all over, but most often it's in the 3rd base grandstands (high 20's to the 30's).

Michael Sevilla said...

Save it!
Spare yourself from following the brass ring of a new ballpark. I promise you it will not have a soul.

Before I left NE, I went to many games and have nothing but fond Fenway memories.

SoxPinkPony389 said...

Remember 2004? Can you imagine the Red Sox playing out that season in any other ballpark, the park that opened with a World Series title in 1912, witnessed the infamous 1918 World Champion Red Sox, and was still standing proud 86 years later when we finally, finally, put an end to the soul crushing decades of heartbreak and disappointment? Of course you can’t. Fenway Park has been called home to almost a century of baseball legends: Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Smokey Joe Wood, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling are just a few, to say nothing of the legends hosted on visiting teams. Jason Bay currently patrols the same left field once owned by Ted Williams. Josh Beckett pitches on the same spot Smokey Joe Wood pitched the 1912 World Series, Boo Feriss and Tex Hughson pitched in the 1946 World Series and Roger Clemens pitched his first 20 strike out game. It’s where Carlton Fisk waved a foul ball fair, where Ted Williams hit his final home run in his final at bat, and where a man named Duffy once climbed a cliff. Fenway Park is a living, breathing monument to the Red Sox history and the history of baseball; it can’t be substituted or replaced, where do you want the Sox to make our next great, or, God forbid, extremely horrible memories?

We can build modern amenities in Fenway, but we can’t rebuild history outside of Fenway. As long as it is structurally sound and viable Fenway Park is where the Boston Red Sox should call home.

(Sadly, since I no longer live in New England and don't get home all that much, I haven't been to a game at Fenway since around 1999-2000)

Aaron said...

100% pro new park. I think people mistake old for character, and new parks can have character, and be modern. I go to about 5-11 games a year, section 2, RF Grandstands. My primary complaints;
Egress - getting in / out, to and from the park sucks. Getting food, going anywhere in the park is a gigantic pain in the ass.
The vendors / restaurants are not so good, either in quality, or availability. Same goes for the rest rooms.
I don't think the idea of a new park is new, and the current owners have invested way too much in the current park to plow it under, but, a newer park would be a vast improvement imho.

Andy Katz said...

I go to about 12 regular season games each year and typically go to all home playoff games.

To me, Fenway's secret ingredient is the proximity of seats to the field. The charm, atmosphere, crowd involvement, etc. all stem from this "biological" attribute of the park. The seats next to the on deck circle are closer to the batter than the pitcher! You can't find that anywhere else. Not to be morbid, but I'm surprised no fan has been killed with a foul ball.

And...I'd be willing to bet that any new construction would not push the seating bowl so close to the action due to safety regulations.

I say...keep it as long as possible. It's one of a kind. There's always your couch and big screen TV for comfort.