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Fenway undergoes a face-lift
11/23/2004 3:59 PM ET
BOSTON -- Fenway Park will never look the same. And that's a good thing.

Whether it's the players on the field, the coaches in the dugout or the fans in the stands, the oldest park in the Majors will have a totally new feel in 2005 after what team officials are calling the biggest face-lift in the facility's 92-year history.

Beginning with a state-of-the-art drainage system beneath a brand new field, the Red Sox detailed plans Tuesday for an overhaul of the park. The first noticeable change will occur on the playing surface itself, where a significant drainage crown has been removed.

"The shortstop and third baseman will no longer have to worry about factoring in that big crown in the middle of the diamond to make their throws to first," said Dave Mellor, Fenway's director of grounds. "You'll now be able to see the feet of the outfielders if you're sitting in the dugouts. It'll be pretty dramatic and exciting."

As of Tuesday, while workers continued massive excavation work, some 4 million pounds of soil had been removed to make way for the new field.

"It's going to be a drier, safer and better-looking field next year as a result of these changes," said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino. "The approximate cost is between $1.5 million and $2 million. To put that in perspective, if we save ourselves one rainout next season, the field improvements will have more than paid for itself."

In addition to the new grass and sand-based drainage system, the field will also have a heating system, allowing the grounds crew to prep the grass earlier in the spring and keep it later into the fall.

"If it's not pouring rain, we should be able to play, or play soon thereafter," said Mellor. "It's a modern field now. This is something that will put us back into the modern playing age."

As the Red Sox make their way off the field, they will see a new batting cage and video instruction area, adjacent to the runway leading to the clubhouse. This improvement behind the first-base dugout means players will no longer have to trek across the outfield to the center-field batting cage, previously shared with the visiting team.

Once players make their way to the clubhouse, they will have to regain their bearings, at least at first. The once-cramped 6,000-square foot home to 25 players, coaches and personnel will be expanded to over 14,000 square feet to include a new weight room, interview area for media and a redesigned physical training and therapy area.

"Our players had mentioned that there were things that could make their life better, their preparation better, their rehabilitation easier and one of the commitments we made to them during the course of the year was, 'If you win, we'll do a lot of the things you're talking about.' We see this as an example of us keeping our half of the promise to our players," said Lucchino.

A new elevator will also take the media directly from the fifth floor press box to new interview area, allowing the two existing elevators to be used primarily by ticket-holders immediately before and after games.

While making good on a promise to the players for giving the franchise a World Series title, the team also showed their gratitude to the record 2.8 million fans who passed through the turnstiles in 2004.

The narrow five-foot walkway behind section 16 on the first base side will be expanded to a roomier 40-foot concourse, located on the roof of the new weight room and training facility.

"We hope this will improve, in a big way, the circulation and mobility for the [fans] in the first base area," said Janet Marie Smith, the club's vice president for planning and development. "Not only will this area be wheelchair accessible, it will allow us to take those wheelchair positions and move them to an area where they will have sight lines over the fans, even those who are standing up."

Smith said businesses have joined with the team in a proposal to add three feet of sidewalk space along Lansdowne Street, highlight several aesthetic improvements in the immediate area around the park.

While detailing the plans for improvements for next season, Lucchino said it would be premature to address possible seating capacity expansion for 2006 without the proper approval of the city.

Lucchino said all improvements should be completed and ready for April 11, when the team opens its home schedule against the Yankees.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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