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Fenway regulars: how do you deal with the place?

Apr 20, 2012, 1:00 PM EDT

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I have never been to Fenway Park. I want to go, desperately. I want to sit in the Monster seats, actually, because those look pretty fantastic.  Also: because everyone I know who has been to Fenway tells me that the rest of the park — while historic and beautiful and all of that — is something of a pain.

The say that the seats are small and the legroom is poor. Many seats don’t face the infield. The tunnels and concourses, for lack of a better term, are dark and crowded.  It’s totally expected in a park that age, but it certainly makes for a big disconnect between comfort and coolness. The latter is in great abundance and can overcome a lot of problems, but the former is in short supply, I’m told. So I guess I’m looking forward to going someday, but I’m kind of thankful that I don’t have an 81-game package. Because I fear that, once the novelty wore off, I’d find it a bit miserable.

I know a lot of you have weighed in on this in recent threads, particularly that Luke Scott “Fenway is a dump” post. But what I really want to know is how regular Fenway goers feel about the place. In all honesty, as a baseball-going destination, not as a historical thing. We know it’s cool and great and a gem from that certain perspective — I love seeing it on TV too — but what is it like to go there a lot?

Are the complaints I listed above overblown? Is it one of those things where it’s great if you don’t know any better but if you’ve spent time in more modern parks it’s hard to go back? How do you make it work?  I ask because while history and novelty would cover it all for me if I went there a few times, I’m guessing it doesn’t outweigh the inconveniences if you go there a dozen times a year.

Have at it.

  1. deathmonkey41 - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    I kind of like the tunnels and concourses that make you feel like cattle being rustled into a corral- that’s baseball. The biggest complaint I hear about new Yankees Stadium is that it’s too big, wide open and clean. I think the Red Sox should hold onto that retro feel for as long as they can.

    • dvzee1 - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      Do yo mean that Fenway’s too Small, Cramped and Dirty in comparison to Yankee Stadium ?

  2. crispybasil - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    I’ve caught 4 – 5 games there per season over the last few years. Those criticisms aren’t overblown – the tunnels are cramped, and getting to your seats is a bit of an adventure. Some of the loge box seats have a bit more room (never been in the premium seats). The only other parks I’ve been to are the old and new Yankee Stadiums, and I can’t say that I’ve noticed a huge difference with leg room. My opinion is that if you’ve made it onto the season ticket holder list and attend a large number of those games, then you understand what you have to deal with at the park and can overlook Fenway’s idiosyncrasies, but I think you’re right in saying that it’s probably not a park you’d want to hit up every single year based solely on the experience. But I can remember walking into Fenway for the first time (it was only a few years ago), and there’s definitely an “Ah ha” moment where you can feel the history.

    That being said, my one complaint is that I wish Fenway had something akin to the Strasburger or a hot dog covered in deep fried clams or something.

    • brian32556 - Apr 20, 2012 at 10:12 PM

      You don’t notice a big difference in leg room between Fenway and Yankee Stadium!!!???? What’re you 6’10” and it wouldn’t matter anyway!?!!? I’m 5’10” and find Fenway claustrophobic!

  3. CliffC - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    As a Yankees fan who visited Fenway for the first time on Wednesday, I have to say, it was a lot better than I expected. I have heard all the same critiques and I didn’t find an issue with any of it. Granted, I had great seats in section 16. The seats were very old (which was actually kind of cool) and not terribly comfortable and probably smaller than most places but it wasn’t really a problem for me. Bathrooms were perfect and updated. Lines weren’t terrible for beer and food. All in all, a much better than expected experience. I would prefer the bars around the stadium to be more dingy like most of the spots in the Bronx.

    The oldness of it made me miss the old stadium a bit.

    Sweet Caroline blows though. The fans were the weakest part of the experience. They all left a decent game 5 minutes after the last note of that stupid song.

    Had quite the different experiences this week. AT&T park on Monday which blew me away, then this on Wednesday. Was pretty cool.

    • joenash72 - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      Red Sox fans are the weakest part of the experience at any game, even here in Seattle. Every season, one of the local sports-radio stations goes down to Safeco Field and talks to members of “Red Sox Nation.”. Totally clown on them, and of course they don’t even get it. Radio-interviewer brings-up names like Armas, Rice, Ted Williams, etc. and they don’t have a clue… “How long have you been a Red Sox fan?” “Oh since 2004…”

      KJRam does it every season, but it never gets old…

      • js20011041 - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:30 PM

        Kind like Seattle picked up all those fans after Griffey, Johnson, Martinez, and Buhner turned them into a good team? Kind of like the fans that finally started coming to the Kingdome to save baseball in Seattle, only after the team was good? Fans like that?

      • joenash72 - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:37 PM

        Google “Band-Wagon” >>>>>> Results: RED SOX NATION

        ^^^^^^just like that, actually

      • js20011041 - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:50 PM

        Man, you have a serious hard-on for Red Sox fans. Sounds suspiciously like penis envy to me. Look, every team has douchey fans. No one likes them. I hate drunks as much as everyone else, but to pick out any group of fans as the worst is silly. You can go into any ballpark and have either a good experience or a bad experience. It all depends on who is sitting near you during that game.

  4. danaking - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Some places resonate with their history. I went to Independence Hall in Philadelphia once and could feel the sense of what happened there. Fenway is like that. I’m also old enough to remember when most ballparks were like that; my first games were at Forbes Field, and I saw a doubleheader at the original Yankee Stadium, before the renovation in the 70s. I understand the appeal of the new ballparks, and, yes, some of charm of Fenway might wear off is you went there too often. I used to go several times a year when I lived in Boston during the 80s, and my trips became less frequent as I grew tired of the drunks in the bleachers. Aside from that, it’s a superb place to watch a game, just not what we’re used to today.

    Might be a little like driving a classic car. If you’re into it, it’s great. if you’re not, meh.

  5. Joe - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    I wouldn’t say I’m a “regular” visitor to Fenway because I only get there every 2-3 years or so, however I don’t think Fenway is so bad. That is, other than the grandstand seats down the RF, which are not only the original (small, wooden) seats, but also face the LF wall. I don’t find the seating overly cramped, but I’m 5’10”. It was built for people my size. The concourses are not as bad as they once were, and there’s a nice food court behind the RF stands. The bleachers aren’t bad, but if you’re more than a couple rows back you won’t be able to see an outfielder or two. Close to the bullpen is awesome.

    A lot of it depends on where you sit. If you can access/afford the infield boxes (which have been rehabilitated), it stands up to pretty much anywhere. If you’re stuck in the wooden grandstand seats, you might end up with a stiff back.

    I go for the game and not the food, so I can’t really speak to the concessions.

    • ezthinking - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      “not bad” isn’t a ringing endorsement, but probably right on. When I’ve been there, the experience mostly is built on what happened there, not necessarily what will happen tonight. Spend more time there and you may come to hate it. Spend even more time there and you may just accept it.

      For me, ballparks supplement the experience. Take in a 3 game series. If the park still uplifts the experience, its a great park. Forget about the park, solid stadium. Is a pain, interferes with the game.

      The Fenway experience for a regulars must be ‘normal.’ For first time time visitors, awesome. A multiple time visitor between, kind of a pain. But it’s still baseball. And an MLB day game with a cold beer and a brat, any seat in any park is AWESOME!

  6. makeham98 - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    I think the benefits far outweigh the problems. Moving a lot of the concessions out on to the street helped a lot. Yes the rows are tight, you don’t get a cupholder. Green wall seats are for the suckers.

    Try the Cuban sandwich at Luis Tiant’s stand, good stuff. He’s there some nights.

  7. levistahl - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    I can’t speak for Fenway-goers–I’ve only been once and thought it was a wonderful place to see a game–but in case it sheds any light I can give the Wrigley Field perspective: you hear complaints all the time about how Wrigley need updating, and from the point of view of this upper-deck season ticket holder, they’re nonsense. Sure, the aisles are narrow and the ramps can be crowded. Sure, the concessions suck in large part because they don’t have room for any variety. A few seats have poles in the way.

    But good god, that’s all easily manageable, and what you get in return for those minor inconveniences is one of the best game-watching experiences I’ve had in any of the 20+ MLB parks I’ve been to. From the cheap seats you still feel close to the action and can see everything well, and even with all the drunken morons, the atmosphere during a tense game is fantastic. And, oh the view of our fair city from the upper deck is amazing.

    (And anyone who’s physically able and has experience of Cubs games can also manage to get into and out of the park in minutes, despite the antiquated ramp-and-entrance set-ups. You just gotta know what you’re doing.)

    Honestly, my only complaints about Wrigley, aforesaid drunken morons aside, are that the sound system is terrible (which, because it keeps them from belting too much nonsense at us, may be a good thing) and that there aren’t enough women’s restrooms. I mean, I don’t use the latter, but I gotta stand up for my regular seatmate here, who does.

    • mann44 - Apr 20, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      I agree with this 100%. As a White Sox fan who normally thinks that he hates Wrigley because of all the same issues brought up about Fenway, everything that you said is right on. Watching the game in the upper deck is great and something you will not experience at many parks. We won’t sit in the upper deck in most places and because of that we probably go to fewer games.

  8. racksie - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Quick tip, Craig: The Monster seats are going to be awful. you will miss 3/4 of the fly balls. Looks cool from the outside, not that great on the inside. If you consider it, you can’t see the warning track, or even the last 1/4 of the outfield. I’ve done it at other ballparks, not Fenway. But I still want to go to Fenway. I will say Wrigley was my favorite, except for that day I sat in the Champions seats at Target Field. The valet…the pesto gnocci, the free beer, Jr. as my server. Best baseball day ever. And the Twins won. With Matt Capps first save. Sweet. Sit somewhere other than the Monster seats. That’s my advice.

  9. fellspointbird - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    I went to an O’s-Sox game @ Fenway in 2005. I really did enjoy the stadium & believe that it is a national treasure. That said, I sat in the bleachers and my neck was killing me by the 6th inning (bleachers face RF/stands and not home plate). Great fans tho.. nothing like the ones who show up @ Camden Yards.

  10. hojo20 - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    RE Fenway: Don’t sit in the RF corner, and when nature calls, leave your seat with two outs in the inning so you can be back for the start of the next inning.

    The bleachers at Wrigley are MUCH better, because there was beer stand under the big scoreboard and a quick walk down the ramp to the bathroom. High up in the bleachers at Fenway it takes forever to get to the concourse.

    Both Fenway and Wrigley both have obstructed views of popups/flys sitting deep under the upper deck. It stinks.

  11. hermitfool - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    The recent upgrades to Fenway have turned a bad ball park into a mediocre one. Any of the newer jewels, like PNC Park or Coors Field, provide a more aesthetically pleasing baseball theater and a more fan-friendly experience. That said, if we lived closer to Fenway and could afford tickets, the park itself would not discourage our attendance as much as the drunken, ignorant foul-mouthed fans who too often destroy the fun of a baseball contest. Most baseball organizations in recent years have tightened security and discouraged drunken behavior. The Boston Red Sox have a long way to go.

  12. skeleteeth - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    Never once had a bad experience inside the park when I frequented it. That could be due to living a block away so I never waited in line to get to my seat, thus limiting whatever stress drove most people to drink all that beer in the bleachers. Left the apt @ 7:03 and 2 minutes later was in my seat for first pitch. Getting home took twice as long sometimes though.

    Only thing I noticed that would have affected me was the closure of Yawkey Way during game time. I needed to get to Kenmore for both work and school so that would have complicated my commute quite a bit. They must have paid an arm and a leg for the rights to do that and I’m shocked people didn’t throw fits because of it.

  13. Jay Seaver - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    Avoid the upper grandstands and right field, and do not get anywhere near the combination of the two. Those are the only really BAD seats. Then again, I pretty much plant myself once the first pitch is thrown (I honestly can’t imagine why people need to make multiple beer runs during a game), so troubles with lines and narrow aisles don’t come up much.

    Maybe I’m just acclimated from ~10 games there a year, but I love the place. It’s all baseball and no pretense.

  14. Jason @ IIATMS - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    Even as a Yanks fan, I will say this about the Monster seats: They’re real and they’re fabulous. I loved, LOVED, being up there. A vantage point like none other. Especially if you are front row.

    I’ve sat in other seats and been less “in love”, but the park certainly plays the role of the Grand Damme very well.

    And I’ve never been bold enough to wear Yankee gear there. I go to enjoy a game, not get hassled or in a fight.

  15. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    Probably been there about 10 times, although nothing recent (4-5 years) since I moved from MA to NC. The seating issues depending entirely on where you sit (no shit sherlock, right?). If you are on the ground level close it’s the 1910 style wood seats built for people who are 5’6 and weigh 150lbs (i’m 6’0 220). Seats out in RF aren’t too bad, at least they aren’t bleachers.

    The newer stuff, Loge seating above 3rd base line, box seats, etc are really nice and more comfortable for the bigger US citizen. Haven’t sat on the monster though.

    Honestly, I think the criticism is a bit overblown. I’m not trying to perform open heart surgery in the tunnel, or hold a full 5v5 basketball game in the locker room. I’ve resigned myself to paying for overpriced food and drinks like you do in every park.

    Just a Yankee fan in hiding, trying to catch a game without getting shanked.

  16. royhobbs39 - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    I have only been going to games at Fenway since 1999, and even then only one every year or two. At first, the most positive aspect about it was that it was so much different then all the “new” ballparks around that time. (Other I had attended were Camden and Turner – both beautiful and retro parks). Growing up in old minor league parks like Parker Field in Richmond and smaller parks throughout North Carolina like the DAP, I liked the antiquated look of Fenway. The old chain link, the smaller corridors and the disappointed look you saw on somebody’s face when they found out they had one of those ob-vu seats. It all reminded me of my youth when I saw the baseball game as a fun “baseball experience” through more innocent eyes.

    That being said, as I have gotten older and visited Fenway as it has undergone such tremendous changes, I feel that the changes have been quite positive. The updates have managed to capture that “old timey” feel while still adapting to a fan that wants to “get what they pay for”. With the prices at Fenway where they are, many of the fans want to both view a game and experience a carnival atmosphere, yet also visit a time when the game was not a distraction from the bar/playground/pool/t-shirt shop/etc. And Fenway still manages to handle both. Sure the seats are uncomfortable and the prices steep, but as a fan of the game and its history, it seems as if there are few other places in the majors that let you enjoy both.

    That being said…I managed to make it to my second game in Pittsburgh last summer. If I was a major league fan, that is exactly what I would want my park to look like.

  17. Loren - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    I agree with everyone else about the RF corner. I sat there for my first game at Fenway and thought the whole stadium sucked and was all in favor of tearing it down (that was 15 years ago). The other 3-4 games I saw there were from better seats and totally redeemed the place for me. I have no issues with the tunnels – I didn’t think they were as bad as old Tiger Stadium, so you can use that as a reference point. But I don’t tend to spend much time out of my seat.

  18. snowbirdgothic - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    Fenway isn’t Disneyland. It’s not antiseptic, it doesn’t have rotating animatronic statues, fish tanks, or bumper cars. It’s a ballpark, and if you’re smart about where you sit, it’s a wonderful place to see a game (instead of, say, having a steak dinner at a hotel, going dancing, trying a rock climbing wall, and occasionally glancing at home plate).

    A lot of the “Fenway is a dump” stuff comes from the same sort of self-loathing concern-troll journalism that gives us annual stories from baseball writers on how the All-Star game is broken, why they won’t vote for anyone for the HoF, and why anyone still listens to Murray Chass.

  19. boomerdt - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    Fenway was my first ballpark. And I’m glad I don’t go to it anymore. Everything everyone tells you is true. If I ever go back – it will be the monster seats (way over priced for an outfield seat) or the right field roof deck.

    Stadiums I’ve been to (best to worse): Camden Yards (Orioles), Phillies, Texas Rangers, Nationals, Old cardinals stadium, KC Royals, Toronto, Old yankee stadium, Fenway Park.

    Pre-game atmosphere and neighborhood (I favor city center ballparks): Fenway, Old cardinals stadium,Camden Yards,phillies, rangers, Nationals (only because it’s in DC), Toronto, old yankee stadium, KC Royals.

    So yeah… Fenway has it’s pluses. Most of them involve the history of the stadium and the events/food/people outside the stadium.

    I would love to see Boston build a new stadium on the water front. Will never happen (no land)…

  20. shaggylocks - Apr 20, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    I see roughly half a dozen or so games at Fenway each season, and I love the place to death. The trick is to avoid buying tickets in the right field grandstands and to use resources like the Fenway Pole Finder book (http://www.amazon.com/Fenway-Finder-Boston-Baseball-Guide/dp/0976705478) when buying tickets off craigslist. So, the concourses are crowded: so what? You’re at a ballgame with 37 thousand other people.

    Also, I think it helps that my wife and I are both averagely skinny people. I imagine Fenway must be a little less inviting if you or the person you’re with are overweight.

  21. randygnyc - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    I went as a kid 40 years ago, but don’t remember that experience. As a Yankee fan, I like to avoid Boston, completely. I had refused to go since because I feel that spending even a dollar there somehow helps the red sox with their payroll and operating expenses. About 20 years ago, I had some friends who begged me to go, kinda like a bucket list thing. They had a free ticket for me. I finally gave in and went. Ate at the chart house (don’t know if it’s still there) before the game, and filled up so I wasn’t tempted into purchases during the game. I wound up spending……$00.00.
    But, there’s no denying the awesome history that’s taken place there. It’s something that is palpable. It’s the last great, true baseball experience. A must see. The facilities were more run down than I anticipated (worn paint, dingy corridors. My section of seats faced the outfield, as opposed towards homeplate, which made it uncomfortable.
    With regards to Luke Scott’s comments, I think he speaking primarily of the visiting players facilities. The areas that are inaccessible to the fans. From a players perspective, I’m inclined to agree that a modern workplace can lead to greater productivity. From a fans perspective, it’s not at all true that the place is a dump. On the other hand, it’s not a place that I’d want to go to 81 times a year. I’ve done that at Yankee stadium during the late 90’s, and can say that even those accommodations can become tiresome. And no, the new stadium is not too big. I’ve been to games where there were 10,000 fans and also packed to capacity during the 2009 world series games. Every inch of space is appreciated.

  22. offseasonblues - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Craig –
    I can’t believe you haven’t been there yet.
    I live 90 minutes away, so 3 or 4 games a year is my norm. The first time is, or was for me, a jaw dropping, oh my! experience. You emerge from the dark, and see a sunlit, odd shaped baseball field, greener than green grass, red dirt, bright white lines, the perfect diamond, the monstrous left field wall, ancient wooden seats; you smell the hot dogs and beer, you hear the buzz of college kids, older fans, tourists, hawkers, drunks, hecklers, and then you get to watch a baseball game.

    How much more do you want?

    It doesn’t get old. You do learn which seats and sections to avoid. You do appreciate the improvements. Fenway is unique and imperfect and beautiful. I’d be happy to stand on line with you and your better half for spur of the moment tickets anytime you find yourself in Boston with some time on your hands and the home team in town.

  23. proudlycanadian - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Doesn’t seem as if many Fenway regulars have actually responded to this thread. Most of them are probably at the game and are crying in their beer.

  24. jimmymarlinsfan - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    I’ve been to Fenway and sat pretty much everywhere in the park aside from the monster seats. As someone who appreciates history as much I do, I enjoy that feeling you get when there…to me it’s a feeling kinda like being at Ellis Island, you are in awe of the history and the people that have come together at one site

    But yes, the seats are small, sweet Caroline is obnoxious and some of the fans are beyond drunk/crazy/stupid but I wouldn’t say that stands for the masses. As a marlins fan and seeing the “feesh” twice at Fenway and being in my marlins gear, I’d say most fans were pretty cool with me and recognized the unique relationship between the red sox and marlins.

    Parking is a breeze if you get there early and are ready to drop 35 to 40 dollars but I suggest parking outside the city and taking the train in. All in all, Fenway to me, is just another baseball experience…I’ve been to old tiger stadium, joe Robbie, and PNC (where my cousin Jeff Locke made his MLB debut) and I’d have to say Pnc is the best pure baseball experience you can have while remaining comfortable and not dropping an arm and leg and wallet. All that said, I can’t wait to attend Marlins park, if only to see the lovely ladies at the Clevelander

  25. hushbrother - Apr 20, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    People who say the seating in Fenway is poor exaggerate things. Sure, some seats are kind of crummy, notably the ones in the grandstands. Not a lot of leg room. But they’re certainly not uncomfortable to the point of being unpleasant, of detracting from the ballpark experience. Watching a game at Fenway is always a pleasure.

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