Sunday, December 11, 2011
On my recent book tour for the bestselling Fenway 1912, when people ask me what I think the future holds for Fenway Park, I answer “real estate.”
As I note in Fenway 1912, part of the reason Fenway Park was built where it was built in the first place was to spur real estate development. And when Fenway Park is replaced, real estate development will also be the issue.
Once the economic benefits of the Sox 100th anniversary are fully exploited by the Red Sox, and every last $250 brick and $75 book is sold [Note: my Fenway 1912 is about 1/3 the price . . . just sayin’], I expect that, ever so slowly, and likely in a whisper campaign to start, we will soon start hearing how Fenway Park, regrettably, is no longer “economically viable,” and that changing economic conditions in the game have rendered the park “economically obsolete” The Red Sox will announce, with regret, that they are reluctantly “exploring alternatives.”
This will take years, but if – or when - the team slips back into “also-ran” status and uses Fenway Park as the reason they can no longer afford to hire high-priced free agents, the inexorable move will have begun. It will not be quick and it will not be easy, because, exclusive of needed infrastructure, building a new ballpark in Boston will be a billion dollar undertaking. But billion dollar undertakings are what people like John Henry (or, if the Sox are sold, a guy like John Henry) do. Someday, and I think that day will come in the next two decades, the Red Sox will move from Fenway Park.
Note that I did not say that Fenway Park will be torn down, because it will not, but the Red Sox will no longer play there. Fenway will, however, be transformed.
I suspect some plan has already been scrawled on much more than a napkin. Remember, Mrs. Henry, Linda Pizzuti, has a background in real estate development and reportedly has been given some authority in this regard around Fenway Park. I think she and other real estate developers look at Fenway Park and don’t just see images of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams cavorting across the field. They look at the stands and see images of hotels and restaurants and condos with names like “The Residences at Fenway Park.”
I think the field itself – and the left field wall – will be preserved and maintained as they are. So will the façade on Yawkey way and perhaps a portion of the bleachers. But I expect the grandstand and most other seating areas to be converted into commercial, residential and hotel space, the most exclusive of which will offer views of the field. Perhaps a few seats will remain so the field can occasionally retain its’ “historic” use, but by and large I think the field will prove to be a private backyard and playground for the wealthy residents of the grandstand condos and hotels. I can envision nearly the entire stands being replaced by condos and hotels built within and on top of the existing structures, perhaps with some limited public access on the roof, so it will still be possible for the general public – at a price - to “experience” Fenway Park, or at least “see” it, and buy the ubiquitous souvenir. If they’re smart, they’ll include a public museum or something similar. Apart from that however, I see a luxury hotel and high priced condos – say 500 or so, starting at a couple of million dollars each, with the “best” going for upwards of $20 million. Fenway Park won’t be torn down, but it will become something it is increasingly – and sadly - becoming now; a place for the wealthy, the well-to-do and the connected. As I argue in Fenway 1912, Fenway Park has always evolved, which is why it remains today, and further evolution – not that I necessarily agree - is probably inevitable. Someday in the not too distant future, instead of saying “I’m going to Fenway,” and having everyone know you mean you are going to see the Red Sox play, you may well have to say something else.
And the next time you go to Fenway, remember that you’re not only watching a game on a field where Babe Ruth and Ted Williams once played, but perhaps from a viewpoint that some fatcat might one day enjoy while smoking a cigar and soaking in the Jacuzzi on his balcony.
Glenn Stout is the author of the best-selling Fenway 1912.
The readers have spoken. Fenway 1912 is easily the best selling Fenway Park book of the season and the best selling Red Sox book of the fall, and is also a Boston Globe best seller this morning. Although Amazon may be temporarily out of copies (more are shipping to Amaqzon now), it is still easily acquired by Christmas from your local bookstore, which will either have the book in stock or can easily order it, or through other online sources such as indiebound.com or barnesandnoble.com.
For those still wondering what Fenway Park book to purchase this season, I encourage you to compare reviews of my book, which has been praised by the most respected review sources in the country, with those of other Fenway Park books. There is a reason Boston area readers have made Fenway 1912 a best seller. Then buy two books . . . as long as one of them is Fenway 1912.
After reading, you will never look at Fenway Park the same way, I promise. And if you don't believe me, here are what others have said:
“In the capable hands of Stout, it promises to make all other books about Fenway’s construction and first season obsolete.” - Sports Illustrated.com
“If you are a lifelong Red Sox fan, a lifelong Red Sox hater, a rabid baseballholic or merely a casual baseball fan, Glenn Stout’s new book, Fenway 1912, is an amazing read into the birth of a ballpark, the 1912 Red Sox and the transition to the modern baseball era. His ability to weave together the tiniest detail and apparent minutiae into a rip-roaring page-turner that is hard to put down is simply amazing. If someone had told me that I’d be fascinated by the 1912 Red Sox I’d have laughed outright, but Mr. Stout is able to make the reader care about a baseball season that happened almost 100 years ago. . . Even if you are a confirmed Red Sox hater – if you love baseball you’ll find plenty to like in this book. If you know a Red Sox fan there probably isn’t a better book to give to them as gift. And if you haven’t had the privilege of visiting Fenway Park you’ll find yourself thinking about how to go to a few games in the Friendly Confines of Fenway to watch a baseball game in the oldest ballpark in the major leagues. I can whole-heartedly recommend this book. I’ll be buying several copies to give as gifts this holiday season. – Amazon reader review
“From tearing up the sod from a previous ballfield and moving it to the under-construction Fenway to details about the construction of the building to the intricacies of the daily life of the players, every detail of Fenway Park is covered in this book. Mr. Stout clearly has a passion for his material, and I am amazed at the research that must have gone into this. Anyone involved in this project is discussed: groundskeeper, architect, coaches, owners, players. Even at 416 pages, this wasn’t boring and kept me reading even though I don’t follow baseball. . . This has got to be THE definitive work on this subject. I can’t imagine even a dissertation that could be more complete.” - ADVANCE REVIEW via netgalley
“Fenway 1912 is not [just] light reading & pretty pictures. There’s going to be stuff in there that even Dick Bresciani doesn’t know. . . a book that everyone who covers this team has to buy, and read, and keep handy, so that when people ask us where the bones are buried, we can look wise and have the answer at our fingertips.“ -Boston Baseball
“To many fans, Fenway is the Mecca of baseball, a symbol of everything the game represents and aspires to be. But in 1912, it was just one of four new baseball stadiums utilizing newly developed concrete-and-steel construction methods—evidence, writes Best American Sports Writing series editor Stout (Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, 2009, etc.) “of just how deeply the game of baseball had become ingrained into the fabric of American life.” The Sox’ 1912 season was a remarkable one, and the author takes the reader inside the locker room, management offices and the field. The team featured such luminaries as Hall-of-Famer Tris Speaker, pitching ace “Smoky” Joe Wood, player/manager Jake Stahl and a supporting cast of characters including Duffy Lewis, “Hick” Cady, “Heinie” Wagner, Buck O’Brien and the Sox’ famous booster club the Royal Rooters. But the book’s most important character is Fenway itself, and Stout spares no detail of its design, construction and effect on the game. The author’s meticulous approach makes the book a valuable addition to baseball history . . . The author does an excellent job of portraying the differences in the game between that era—when “the owners were the kings and the players lowly serfs”—and today. Throughout, Fenway Park, “a ballpark for the heart and soul,” shines as a beacon for America’s game. Baseball diehards and historians, and of course Red Sox fans, will find much of interest in this paean to one of sport’s most famous venues.” – KIRKUS Reviews
“In his new work, Stout (Red Sox Century) turns back the clock to 1912 to capture the first season the Boston Red Sox played on their now storied home field. The author gives a detailed account of how Fenway was constructed using “reinforced concrete,” an improvement from the wooden ballpark it replaced. Of course, a ballpark is nothing without a team, and Stout weaves the story of the new ballpark into the saga of the Red Sox ownership, players, fans, and the city of Boston. . . Stout’s knowledge of the sport and passion for the game certainly come across in his writing, especially when he is uncovering little known details of this bygone era of baseball. The book is full of fun and informative anecdotes about Fenway’s past and present including the connection between the ballpark and the sinking of Titanic, the origins of the term “Green Monster,” and how the new field with its cliff in left field, its short porch in right, and the bleachers in center affected Sox outfielders Duffy Lewis and Tris Speaker. Finished off with an epilogue that captures the major moments in Fenway history, this work is a well-constructed tribute to Fenway on its upcoming 100th anniversary. – Publisher’s Weekly