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Fenway Facelift

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Workers raked sand yesterday in the new field being installed at Fenway. Red Sox officials said that $2 million in grounds improvements should improve drainage and help prevent rainouts. Globe Staff Photo / Bill Greene

Making Fenway bright

Trees, lamps, eatery in makeover plans

By Megan Tench, Globe Staff | November 24, 2004

Red Sox officials want to extend a festive atmosphere around Fenway Park, sprucing up the drab Gate E into a grand entrance and running a restaurant that would help give the street a look recalling the 1920s.

With Yawkey Way -- and its pizza joints, concessionaires, and merchandise hawkers -- already used as an extension of the ballpark on game days, officials are now envisioning the Gate E entrance with concession stands and ATMs, opening onto a refurbished Lansdowne Street on the other side.

"I do think they will be enormously beneficial to our fans," Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino said from the stands at Fenway Park yesterday, as officials offered new details of renovation plans. "I hope everyone in the neighborhood and in the city will enjoy it."

Makeovers inside and outside the 92-year-old ball field are the most significant improvements since the 1930s, Lucchino said.

Amid new cherry trees and historic street lamps on Lansdowne Street, officials plan a new year-round sports bar and restaurant. It will be housed on the now-vacant lower floor of the old Jeano building adjacent to Gate E on the corner of Lansdowne Street and Brookline Avenue, home to Red Sox administrative offices and an old bowling alley in the basement.

Formerly a car dealership and showroom, the space will be restored to its 1920s architecture, said Janet Marie Smith, Red Sox vice president of planning and development. Its deteriorating faux brick wall will be replaced with large plate glass windows and arches, she said.

"We're trying to make this place a prettier building," Smith said. "We wanted to take the pressure off of the other entrance gates," where fans flock for souvenirs and refreshments.

Rejuvenation of Fenway's Gate E entrance is crucial, the officials said. The area is what many fans see first on their way to a game, including those who come by way of Kenmore Square.

Officials are also negotiating with the city to add 1,000 seats to the ballpark, the smallest in Major League Baseball, by 2006. They declined to elaborate.

"Many of our plans are pending before the city," said Lucchino. "It would be premature to discuss those."

The team has added more than 1,100 seats since 2002. Some of those replaced standing-room-only areas and did not add to the capacity of the ballpark.

Lucchino and other officials yesterday hailed improvements already underway at the stadium, including about $2 million in renovations on the field to improve drainage for shorter delays and fewer cancellations from rain.

"We are enhancing the likelihood that our games will be played and rain delays be shorter," said Lucchino. "If we can save one rainout next year, we will essentially pay for the drainage system."

Since the Red Sox World Series win, 4 million pounds of soil has been removed from the field and replaced by 12 inches of sand and gravel to move water more quickly from the surface of the field. Heaters will be installed under new sod.

"It's a modern field now," head groundskeeper David Mellor said of the improvements.

Officials also showed off plans to widen the lane above the first-base grandstand seats, which tends to get jammed by crowds during games.

A new grandstand concourse will be located on the roof of a new training facility and weight room being built for the players on Van Ness Street, the officials said.

The space will offer concession booths, be wheelchair-accessible, and allow fans an easier route to elevators and ramps down to the street.

For the players, other perks include renovations to the clubhouse such as a new batting cage and a large tunnel linking the clubhouse and the field. When all the construction is done, the clubhouse will have more than doubled in size, to 6,000 square feet. The average Major League clubhouse is about 20,000 square feet, Smith said.

From The Boston Globe

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