Boston Globe columnist Kevin Paul Dupont claims there are “at least 101 reasons to replace Fenway Park.” He offered two, sort of. The ballpark is really old and it might be exciting right now since the team isn’t very good. Neither is really compelling.
Fenway is old, a beat building. That’s not news. It’s an outdated, cracking, 101-year-old grand dame, one that has been artfully masked over the last 10-12 years during its pearls-on-a-pig era in which every available inch has been scraped, painted, patched, and perfumed.
No matter what the makeover, it still has thousands upon thousands of dreadful seat locations (we give you, oh, Sections 2 through 8 ) and thousands more of the good seats (we give you the remainder of the grandstand) that were designed before Americans fully understood that sugars and carbohydrates make up the very pinnacle of the food pyramid. Most adult New Englanders will plunk down in a bigger, more comfortable seat at a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party than in the Fenway grandstand.
We could defend Fenway as an enduring, timeless baseball landmark. It’s not. For much of its existence, the ballpark has been a dump. Like that giant eyesore of a CITGO sign, it has become an enduring part of the Boston landscape. The cheap beer and sausages taste like cheap beer and sausages. The back pain caused by the uncomfortable seats is, in no way, magical.
Fenway’s romance is oversold, but we’ll defend it because there is no reason to replace the ballpark. Red Sox ownership has made over the club financially without constructing one. The club is the model for why building new ballparks is a gimmick and a sham. (Keep waiting, Pittsburgh)
John Henry and Co. fixed up Fenway. They added some fun novelties. They spruced up the underbelly so that it no longer feels like walking into a giant urinal. They invested in and revitalized the neighborhood around the park, which is now bars, restaurants, shops and luxury apartments. They sold it well. People flocked. This was everything MLB promises communities with a new stadium, without building the stadium.
With NESN and the new national TV deals, a new Fenway Park is superfluous financially. It would involve hundreds of millions, at least, in public expenditure. It would accomplish little, beyond enhancing the value of the Red Sox. The stadium experience may not be as classic as claimed, but a new stadium could bring a deflated airport terminal type atmosphere (see: New Yankee Stadium).
The Red Sox don’t need a change of scenery to enact culture change. That already happened. They need to win. Unless the edifice itself becomes unsustainable, there’s no reason to replace Fenway.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]