By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) _ Fenway Park is all dressed up and ready for its
100th birthday party.
The Boston Red Sox wrapped up 10 years and $285 million in
improvements for the ballpark this offseason, unveiling HD video
boards and a home plate concourse Wednesday that have the oldest
ballpark in the major leagues looking like new in time for its
100th opening day Friday.
By completing the renovations this winter, the Red Sox leave
themselves next offseason to prepare for a 100th anniversary
celebration next summer. Fenway opened April 20, 2012; no major
league stadium has ever survived to be 100, leaving team president
Larry Lucchino to look elsewhere for comparisons.
“Rome had one for the 100th year of the Coliseum,” he said.
But the Coliseum didn’t have three HD video boards in center
field or concession stands selling sushi. Among the other new
features unveiled Wednesday was a new concourse behind home plate
with– for the first time in decades –a smooth, cement floor and
plenty of space for the crowds filing in and out of the ballpark.
“When you consider the pictures we’ve seen of the ballpark in
the 20th century, it really is more vibrant than it ever was,”
owner John Henry said. “Since the moment we arrived, the
restoration of Fenway Park has been a real labor of love. It’s been
nine years that we’ve been at this. The end result is better than
anything we could have imagined.”
The decade-long renovation began shortly after Henry’s group
bought the team and decided not to replace the crumbling facility
with one of the old-time replicas that were in fashion. Instead,
they have spent the winters working on the ballpark in sections,
adding talked-about features such as new seats above the Green
Monster and less-visible ones like making the bathrooms accessible
to the disabled.
This year’s changes will be most obvious to fans who enter
behind home plate into a brightly lit, spacious concourse absent
the cracked tiling and crumbling brick that showed Fenway’s age.
Now, a new gate leads into an area with concessions offering
seafood shack fare and New England favorites like a turkey sandwich
with stuffing and cranberry sauce.
“We were careful not to do too much and overwhelm the intimacy
of Fenway Park,” Lucchino said. “We’re proud that we were able to
improve the ballpark and increase the capacity without changing the
Capacity this year will be 37,493 for night games and 37,065 for
day games _ an increase of 91 over 2010’s totals.
The Year 10 renovations also included repairing the concrete and
waterproofing in the right field grandstand that was originally
built in 1933-34. The entire lower bowl of seats has now been
waterproofed, and every seat in Fenway has been either replaced or
refurbished; field box seats are now padded, and box seats have cup
The plumbing running beneath the home plate concourse has been
brought up to code.
“That will make Fenway viable for 30 or 40 more years,”
The Red Sox return home from a season-opening road trip Friday
to face the New York Yankees. Picked by the majority of baseball
experts to win the World Series, Boston was swept by the Texas
Rangers and fell to 0-4 on Tuesday night with a loss in the series
opener against the Cleveland Indians.
“We still have a lot of games to go, and we’ll be there,
folks,” Mayor Tom Menino said at Fenway on Wednesday morning.
“I’m not panicking.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)