Here’s What’s New at Fenway Park in 2016
Ever since John W. Henry purchased the Red Sox in December 2001, renovating Fenway Park has been at the top of his priority list. Through the first decade of Henry’s ownership, he overhauled America’s Most Beloved Ballpark™ to the tune of nearly $300 million, adding fixtures such as the Green Monster Seats, improved concessions, and high definition video displays. There are almost as many changes to Fenway on a yearly basis as there are to the team itself.
This season is no different, as Red Sox fans will once again notice several additions when they stream into the 104-year-old ballpark for the home opener this afternoon. From expanded protective netting to the installation of a virtual reality booth, Fenway has once again undergone a makeover. (Unfortunately, the high beer prices are here to stay, as team president Sam Kennedy said last week charging $7.75 for a 12-ounce beer is somehow essential to the Red Sox’s ability to field a competitive team.) Here’s what you can expect to see this year when you swing by to watch Pablo Sandoval bust a belt:
More Safety Netting
Per a league-wide mandate, the Red Sox decided to add more netting between the dugouts and home plate this season. The moves comes after two fans were injured at Fenway last season in separate incidents. In June, Tonya Carpenter of Paxton was struck by a shard of broken bat, after Oakland Athletics infielder Brett Lawrie fouled off a pitch. She later underwent brain surgery and received treatment for life-threatening injuries at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The next month, Stephanie Wapenski of Branford, Connecticut required more than 30 stitches after a foul ball hit her in the forehead.
Though improving fan safety would seem to be an uncontroversial measure, some folks have spoken out against the added netting. Best-selling novelist and season ticket holder Stephen King penned an op-ed in the Globe Sunday, saying the new nets make the dugout seats “feel like a cage.”
But given that an average of 1,750 fans per year are injured at Major League ballparks, the expanded safety netting appears to be a no-brainer—even if it does slightly obstruct the view from premium sections.
Virtual Reality Booths
In an effort to make Fenway a more interactive venue, the Red Sox have added virtual reality booths to the park this season. The free video, which runs two minutes, makes it seem as if the viewer is standing right on the field. The three dugout-themed booths are stationed inside Wally’s Clubhouse, the Kids Concourse, and on the Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck.
For the first time this season, the Red Sox will have an official Fenway Park butcher. The Cambridge-based Savenor’s sources meat to chefs like Tony Maws, Barbara Lynch, and Joe Casinelli and will now supply Aramark with a homestyle burger patty for nearly every concession stand. Savenor’s will also have a branded concession stand of its own on Yawkey Way.
In addition, the Red Sox have added a new bar called the “3rd Base Saloon,” which will serve a variety of craft beers. The name is a nod to infamous Red Sox fan Michael “Nuf Ced” McGreevey, who owned Boston’s original sports tavern called—you guessed it—the 3rd Base Saloon. (In 2008, Dropkick Murphy’s bassist Ken Casey re-opened the Boylston Street establishment, which is now called McGreevey’s.)
The Red Sox have squeezed 222 new seats in the right field State Street Pavilion section, bringing Fenway’s official capacity up to 37,637. When Henry bought the team, a maximum of 33,993 fans could fit into the park. Fenway is the fourth smallest venue in terms of seating capacity in Major League Baseball.
Smokeless Tobacco Ban
Last September, the Boston City Council voted unanimously to ban chewing tobacco at all sporting venues. Boston is the third city to bar smokeless tobacco from its stadiums, alongside San Francisco and New York. Violators will be subject to a $250 fine.
Given the prevalence of chewing tobacco around baseball, it will be fascinating to see how—or if—this ordinance is enforced. Last year, former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling, who recently overcame a prolonged battle with mouth cancer, wrote a letter to his younger self warning about the consequences of becoming addicted to the product.