Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball,
and it shows... but on our return visit here, we took a fresh look at this hallowed venue, and
were very impressed at the changes and improvements made to this ballpark to enhance
the fan experience.
Keep in mind the behind the scenes backdrop surrounding our first visit... the team was up
for sale, plans were on again, off again for a new Fenway, and this stadium had gotten to the
point that conditions were absolutely appalling... run down concourses and seating area,
indifferent staff, shabby building.
Now fast forward to 2003. New ownership is in place, with a fan conscious attitude and major
capital improvements to the ballpark. While the dream of a new ballpark is still on the long
term horizon, much needed improvements have gone a long way to making the game day
experience here at Fenway Park a positive one.
Getting to the venue
The stadium is located on the outskirts of downtown, and can be seen on the ride in down
I-90, the Mass Turnpike. Getting here is a real chore, and if you can avoid driving, we would
suggest you do, because parking is really scarce. And there is no easy way to get here off
the expressway, so you will be navigating through clogged narrow streets most of the time.
Private lots near the ballpark run as high as $25-$30 to park, and if you do drive, leave early.
Best advice is to take the subway - the MBTA Green Line to the Kenmore Station and then a
two block walk to the ballpark. There is also free shuttle service from the Ruggles station
which deposits fans right outside the ballpark. Be forewarned -- have a strategy for your trip
to the stadium or you might get crossed up.
Outside the venue
Once you are here, the neighborhood is a real marvel! Neighborhood shops, pubs, quaint
restaurants and merchandise/souvenir stores are everywhere, and by the looks of the
buildings and marquees you know these places have been around as long as the ballpark.
Once you get to Yawkey Way and Landsdowne Streets, the main thoroughfares surrounding
the park, you will find these streets closed on game day, and the entire street is one big
festival - sausage vendors, scalpers, souvenir hawks selling their wares, ice cream stands,
entertainers, all mingling with the fans and the atmosphere is just awesome! And one of the
most simple joys of your visit here is walking the perimeter of the park and gaping in awe of
the facade, aged and worn...the green monster with the new seats high atop... the "Fenway
Park" stone marquee looking down on Yawkey Way. One can only imagine the moments that
these streets have seen throughout the past century.
The ballpark and concourses
As part of the renovation, they actually made Yawkey Way a part of the stadium, and the
ticket turnstiles have been pushed out into the street. This really helps with the capacity
problem. Colorful banners celebrating team milestones and championships adorn the
street lamps. Once you enter the building itself, you walk down a ramp and tunnel, which
leads you to the lower concourse. Here you will find a dark and somewhat dimly lit corridor,
where the fixtures, section signage and restroom identification are all ancient. New
canopies on the concession stands have an old fashioned retro feel to them, and that
compliments the decor nicely. Out in right field you can find an area called "The Big
Concourse", a pleasant food court area with umbrella tables and a wide variety of
concessions to please every taste, again, all done in an old fashioned retro decor.
The seating area.
Of course the signature piece of this stadium is the famed "Green Monster" which
dominates the left field. For the 2003 season, they added a few hundred left field bleacher
seats high above this wall, and they have fast become the hottest tickets in Boston. A hand
operated scoreboard is built into the Monster. Above the bleachers is a jumbotron video
board. Seats here are not too cramped considering the ballpark's age, but there are lots of
obstructed view seats, between the wretched seating angles, plenty of posts and tight
constricted aisles everyplace. With a capacity of about 34,000 seats, the place has a really
cozy feel. And of course, the big "Citgo" sign lights up the sky a block away over the Green
Monster wall, a real Boston landmark. Lastly, a mention to the "Jimmy Fund", a charity for
childhood cancer research which has long been linked to the Sox. Their billboard hangs
above the right field bleachers.
Gotta have the Boston Clam Chowder! The peanut vendors are pretty cool. Give them a
wave, and they will sail a pack of their salty wares right into your lap with precision accuracy.
The "Fenway Franks" are the signature hot dogs, but make no mistake, there is a diverse
enough menu here to please everyone.
The .406 club is a glassed, climate enclosed seating area on the second level behind home
plate. This is a members only club offering premium dining facilities and a panoramic view of
Five numbers hang along the right field wall - those of Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Jose
Cronin, Ted Williams, and Carlton Fisk. The Red Sox AL and division pennants hang along
with their VERY dated World Series banner. But one embarassment for Boston - a banner
proclaiming the Red Sox 1999 "Division Series" champs. Uggghhh!! Bad enough we even
have an ALDS... now an old and venerable franchise like the Red Sox is trumpeting this
aberration with a banner! Doesn't belong here.
Home runs, hits, errors...
Home run... the in game entertainment is simple yet stupendous... between innings videos
of bloopers, game highlights, cool commercials all done to favorite sound tracks. No stupid
mascots or t-shirt tosses. The game day experience is as pure as you can get.
Home run.., "Friendly Fenway" is the mantra here these days and it shows. A nice greeting
walking into the ballpark, friendly ushers who allowed us to take photos from any vantage
points, and vendors who make you feel like family. All very nice.
Error... Top ticket prices are $70, and the cheapest bleacher seats go for $10-$20. The ticket
prices here are ridiculous, yet fans here scoop up the seats so we must be missing
something. Worst of all, where you end up sitting is a real crapshoot... you never know what
obstructions or viewing angles you are going to have to deal with.
Yes this is Fenway.. yes these are hallowed grounds, and we are happy to report that
Friendly Fenway is a ballpark experience to savor and to soak in. The ghosts are here. They
come alive. The neighborhood is about as good as it gets for any baseball, heck, any sports
venue. And the improvements that have been made give this storied venue the respect
that it so richly deserves. Fenway Park is one of the most famous and beloved venues in all
of professional sports. Come early, stay late, and just experience this place in all of its
musty, shabby, yet bright grandeur.
Food and team store 6
Scoreboard and electronics 6
Fan support 9
Location and neighborhood 8
Banners and history 7
In game entertainment 8
Concourses/fan comfort 1
Bonus: Green Monster 2; Monster seats 1; Yawkey Way 2