Upgrades begin at Fenway Park

Upgrades begin with a bang at Fenway Park

BOSTON -- The latest modernization of 93-year-old Fenway Park was symbolized late Friday morning by, of all things, some shattering of glass.

In unveiling the beginning stages of the new club seats that will be spread around the yard in 2006, the Red Sox officially bid adieu to the large Plexiglas windows that were draped across the suddenly defunct .406 Club, a somewhat sterile and closed-off area that was created in 1989 and never gained much popularity.

"We've been hearing almost non-stop since we got here that the glass should go," said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino. "That there was a different kind of atmosphere here, that the people who bought these seats preferred the open air, the electricity, the energy of Fenway Park."

And now they'll have it. There will be two separate areas. The first is the EMC club, which will consist of 406 open-air seats directly behind home plate, in essentially the same spot where the .406 Club seats were located.

There also will be a pavilion level of roughly 400 open-air club seats above the EMC club. Through the work of the corporate department of the Red Sox, most of those 800 seats behind home plate have already, in Lucchino's words, "been spoken for."

In addition, there will be more pavilion level seats spread down the baselines, and they will reside in the same area as the current roof box seats. In all, there will be roughly 1,100 more seats at Fenway Park in 2006, adding to what has already been one of the best home-field advantages in baseball the last three years. In 2005, the Red Sox finished with the best home record (54-27) in the Major Leagues.

"What you'll have at the end of the day is a club seating section unlike any that Fenway has ever had," said Lucchino. "It will be one of the lowest, closest and best club seating sections in all of baseball when we've completed this offseason renovation. I think this whole level is going to become one of the best club levels in all of baseball."

The first piece of glass was shattered by EMC employee (and Red Sox Nation member) Dave Hixson, who fired a concrete baseball against one of the top windows, as hard-hat wearing media members and Red Sox officials surveyed the unique scene.

"The point of this is to open this area to the electricity, to the ambiance, to the noise and smells and charm of Fenway Park," said Lucchino. "At the same time, providing the best amenities anywhere in the ballpark."

Those amenities will include, among other things, heated seats, waiter and waitress services, private dining rooms, a business conference center and VIP parking opportunities.

Through the leadership of Lucchino and architect extraordinaire Janet Marie Smith, the Red Sox have rebuilt Fenway Park on the fly since new ownership took control of the team on Feb. 27, 2002.

"When we first acquired the Red Sox about four years ago, we made several commitments," said Lucchino. "One of those commitments that we've been living by for the last several years has been our commitment to preserve, protect, improve and expand Fenway Park. You have seen in recent years the number of steps that we've taken.

"The amount of work that you've seen so far -- the demolition and all that -- this is just the tip of the iceberg."
-- Larry Lucchino

"If you go chronologically, you start with the Yawkey Way concourse, you go to the dugout seats, to the Green Monster seats, to the right-field roof, to the big concourse and a lot of back-of-the-house stuff involving the clubhouse and the players areas, weight room, etc. Those have been very large steps forward in the preservation and improvement and expansion of Fenway Park."

It's amazing in a sense when you consider how a 93-year-old fixture seems to get younger by the year.

"It's a modernization of Fenway while still being faithful to its charms and history," said Lucchino. "I think, at the end of the day, it's going to be one of our signature accomplishments that we've been able to modernize and improve Fenway and still preserve and protect the essence at Fenway. We're pretty proud of what we've done so far. We're on the right track. It's going to get bigger and better as we create more room."

If things had gone the way the club had wished, the Red Sox would have been hosting Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway on Friday instead of focusing on the construction efforts of the winter. Instead of bemoaning their early ouster, they decided to use the extra time to their advantage, as construction literally began mere hours after the Red Sox were eliminated by the White Sox on Oct. 7.

"The amount of work that you've seen so far -- the demolition and all that -- this is just the tip of the iceberg," Lucchino said. "There's a massive amount of work that needs to be done between now and Opening Day. It's going to be a race to the finish line to get this ambitious program done by Opening Day."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.