Friday, April 3, 2009

What's New at Fenway Park for 2009?

When Fenway Park opens its doors on Monday for its 98th Opening Day, fans are in for a big thrill. New concrete! 

While the Yankees were engaging in its own economic stimulus plan by dumping nearly half a billion dollars on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeria (and, oh yeah, opening a brand new stadium), the Red Sox invested in repairing and waterproofing the concrete seating bowl between sections 14 and 28. OK, so it's not as exciting, but the measure will help to preserve Fenway for use for the next 40 to 50 years, so that's worth something. Right?

Fans who aren't concrete aficionados, however, will still find some noticeable differences in Fenway in 2009: 

New seats in lower bowl. Along with the lower seating bowl repairs between sections 14 and 28, new seats have been installed. All Field Box Seats were replaced by seats with cushioned bottoms and cup holders. Loge Box Seats that were replaced now have cup-holders. Wooden seats in the grandstand have been refurbished. Good news for your kneecaps: the seats have been fitted with springs that will allow them to retract automatically when empty. 

Right field roof box expansion. The 383 Right Field Roof Box seats have been ripped out and replaced by 574 new seats. In addition, there are 100 dedicated standing room spaces with drink rails. There are expanded concession stands and restrooms as well. Providing a bookend to the Coca-Cola sign in left field is a neon sign featuring the logo of Cumberland Farms

New concession items. Fans buying concessions at the Jordan's Third Base Deck will find a new Surf and Turf Grill with shrimp rolls and steak tips. There are also chicken and beef tacos and burritos, boneless chicken wings, a bag of three sliders, and "gobbler sandwiches" made with turkey, stuffing, gravy,  and cranberry (that will sound wonderful on a steamy, 95-degree day game in July).

Fenway Frank recipe. Kayem Foods has taken over the contract to make Fenway Franks. According to an article The Boston Globe, Kayem will unveil a new, bolder recipe. Here's hoping they didn't tinker with the secret, salty ingredient: 86 years of tears from men, women, and children across New England. I guess since the Curse is gone, it's time to change the recipe.

Fenway Family Hour reduced concession prices. In April, nine food items will be up to 50% off for the first hour after gates open (gates open two hours before the first pitch). The items are Fenway Franks, pizza slices, pretzels, popcorn, cotton candy, fruit cupes, veggie cups, slider bags, and ice cream cups.

Meet an active player or coach. In past years the Sox have had a former player available at Autograph Alley to sign autographs, but beginning with the second homestand the Sox will host 30-minute sessions once a homestand where fans can meet and take photos with an active player or coach. Now we know why Manny wanted out of town. 

Early entrance for some fans. Citizens of Red Sox Nation, the team's fan club, with a valid game ticket will have the opportunity to enter the ballpark early through Gate C and watch the Sox take batting practice from the Green Monster Seats.  

Fenway "First Timers." Fans on their inaugural visit to Fenway can go to any Fan Information Booth and get a special First-Timer sticker, a FanFoto voucher for a free personal or family photograph, and sign up for a free welcome message on the scoreboard.

For pregame and postgame options, the biggest addition in the neighborhood is the opening of the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street behind the Green Monster. In addition to live entertainment, the House of Blues serves food. The biggest loss to the neighborhood in the offseason was a January fire that tore through six restaurants on Peterborough Street, including Sorento's, El Pelon Taqueria, and Thornton's Fenway Grille. The McDonald's on Boylston Street has apparently just closed as well. 

The one big thing that hasn't changed this year: ticket prices (finally) and concession prices. Just about the only benefit of the economic downturn. Hopefully, the quality of the play on the field stays the same as well. Go Sox! 

For more information on getting tickets, food and drink options inside and outside Fenway, getting autographs, increasing your odds of catching a foul ball and getting on TV, saving some cash at the game, and much more on having a great day at a Sox game, pre-order a copy of The Die-Hard Sports Fan's Guide to Boston

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