Yesterday, we brought you the insanity that is the new Yankee Stadium, with its ridiculous amenities that make it almost certainly the most luxurious sporting venue in the world. Meanwhile, the Red Sox still play in the old bandbox known as Fenway Park, and with the boatloads of cash the Yanks are going to be pulling in on their new digs, wouldn’t it make sense for the Sox to at least consider a state-of-the-art ballpark?
Apparently not, as Boston CEO Larry Lucchino has said that he expects the team to remain at Fenway for another 50 years. The Yankees can apparently have all their shiny bells and whistles. Fenway was waterproofed in the off season. Take that, Steinbrenner. There’s no doubt that the old yard has a ton of character, but some are saying it might be time to let it go.
The BOSTON HERALD’s Steve Buckley is one of those people. He even goes as far as saying that the team has “fooled” fans into thinking Fenway is more than it is:
Tom Sawyer fooled all the other kids into thinking it was a blast to whitewash the fence, to the point that they happily forked over their money to share in the fun.
The Red Sox have fooled all their fans into thinking Fenway Park is the coolest, most awesome ballpark in the land, to the point that they haven’t played to an empty seat in some six years.
This is the same situation that exists in Chicago. Do people like parks like Wrigley and Fenway just because they’re old? Is it just a big nostalgia trip at the expense of actual comfort? As a former frequent visitor to Cubs games, I don’t think there’s a better place to watch a ball game. But have I been fooled too?
Part of Wrigley’s continuing appeal in Chicago is the fact that the White Sox didn’t exactly build a modern marvel to replace Comiskey Park. But as Boston fans begin to see what their biggest rival now have, will ballpark envy begin to set in? I never much liked the old Yankee Stadium, and I think Sox fans have always thought Fenway was better.
Owner John Henry had this to say about the Fenway mystique:
“I just can’t imagine replicating what we have at Fenway Park. There are a lot of factors that have gone into this record-breaking sellout streak, but Fenway may be the largest of them all. That’s why we have spent so much money to try to refurbish it and make it the best it can be.”
Buckley goes on to say that the Sox’ success is really the reason for the long streak, and that the folks in Boston have been conditioned to accept Fenway’s many flaws:
Compared to the way the place looked when the old Harrington mob was skulking around, the Fenway Park of 2009 is a palace.
But it is still too small, too cramped and too uncomfortable. It is a ballpark whose seats have trouble accommodating the ever-expanding 21st century backside, and the sightlines are laughably poor in some sections.
The team continues to pour money into renovations every year (I think this year it was some new restrooms and updates to the concourse), but can they keep this going for another 50 years? Can they compete economically with other teams without raising ticket prices even further into the stratosphere? What if the team starts sucking and people stop coming to the yard?