Fenway's offseason improvements unveiled

Fenway's offseason improvements unveiled

BOSTON -- There was a time, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino acknowledged on Wednesday, when he thought the Red Sox's best course of action was to build a new stadium. He wasn't alone in that belief.

Now, a year away from Fenway Park's centennial, no one's fancying a wrecking ball. They're reveling instead in the makeover Fenway's undergone.

With the decade-long "Year X Improvements" project completed at Fenway this offseason, Menino not only believes that the park is still one of the best around, he believes it will continue to be for decades to come.

"No question about it, with the improvements they've made, this ballpark can last 30, 40 years," Menino said Wednesday at the entrance to Gate D. "I was at the forefront of the [movement for a] new ballpark. New ownership came aboard and proved to me that we didn't have to destroy Fenway Park."

Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry and team president Larry Lucchino were among the Red Sox officials who joined Menino in a morning event to unveil the upgrades, two days ahead of Boston's 2011 home opener against the Yankees.

"The end result is better than any of us could have hoped for and imagined," Henry said. "It's truly a great day to be at the end of this and to have finished this."

The group spent more than an hour looking at the ballpark, trying offerings from new concession stands like the Fenway Fish Shack, complete with lobster rolls, and looking at a new display of Red Sox memorabilia. Menino said he may lend a Pedro Martinez jacket to the collection.

To call it a grand tour wouldn't be an overstatement: The Red Sox poured an immense amount of time and funds into Fenway's revitalization. The final tally? Ten years and $285 million.

"We get to catch our breath now," Lucchino said. "We're certainly proud of the fact that we've been able to improve the experience and the capacity without changing the essential feeling or ambiance of the ballpark. That was our long-term goal."

Nothing looms larger, literally, than what was lit up in center field: a state-of-the-art Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision light emitting diode (LED) video screen, one of three that have been installed.

The screen in center, measuring 38 by 100 feet, takes over as the park's main display and replaces a scoreboard that was originally installed prior to the 1976 season.

ANC Sports handled the installation of the screens, as it did at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas., Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and -- yes -- at Yankee Stadium in New York.

The scoreboards alone, though, do not come close to encompassing all the improvements. This offseason, a new ticket booth was constructed at the Gate D side of Yawkey Way. More televisions were put in along the concourses so fans don't have to miss any action. The entirety of the original lower bowl seating area has seen water-proofing, seat replacements and concrete repairs, finishing this year with the right-field portion.

"This whole new ground-level concourse is going to be great," Lucchino said. "It's just cleaner, easier to walk on and a little wider."

Changes from past years were dramatic, too. In 2002, there were new dugout seats, and the next year the Green Monster seats. In '04, the Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck came along, and in '05 and '08, there were new wheelchair seating.

"I think when you compare it to the pictures that we see from time to time of the park in the '20s," Henry said, "it really is more vibrant than it ever was."

The Red Sox didn't undertake the work without the environment in mind. More than 80 percent of construction waste generated was recycled, and approximately 6,000 bricks were salvaged and reused. New plumbing equipment keeps water usage to a minimum in bathrooms as well.

More than pleased with the hard work done around the playing field, Henry and Menino said they're not worried about how the Sox have been doing on the playing field, despite an 0-4 start.

"Do you think they feel worse about things than they felt good about things before the first pitch?" Henry said. "In other words, we're not going to go 162-0, but we're not going to 0-162. I think somewhere it was written recently, we always got off to a fast start. And it hasn't always worked out, so, hopefully it'll be the other way around this year."

Up next for Fenway? The home opener on Friday at 2:05 p.m. ET against the Yankees. And lurking beyond that is the park's 100th anniversary. Fenway opened on April 20, 1912, and is the Majors' oldest and smallest ballpark. Capacity for night games, incredibly, is just 37,493.

Said Lucchino of the upcoming celebration, "Rome had one for the 100th year of the Coliseum."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.