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Fenway Park: America’s Little Ballpark Grows Up

Mon March 31, 2008 - National Edition
Lori Lovely

Fenway Park celebrates its 96th anniversary this year. In lieu of a birthday gift comes a much-needed update. Like so many unassembled toys, one of Fenway’s “gifts” had to be put together before it could be put to use. The Manitowoc 2250 crawler crane rented from L. J. Crane & Rigging, Cranston, R.I., by Capco Steel Inc., Providence, R.I., was too large to pass through Fenway’s small overhead door. L. J. Crane vice president and COO Paul Fioravanti explained that crews had to disassemble it in order to cart the pieces through the restrictive opening, and then reassemble it inside the park.

“Look at the size of the crane,” Fioravanti said, “and look at the size of the door. It doesn’t seem possible.” In fact, Capco had been advised that it wouldn’t be possible to get the crane inside, but since the 2250 was necessary for the job, L.J. Crane took measurements and planned strategies for disassembling it into the minimum number of smaller parts necessary to get it through the door: “emergency” sub-assembly, as Fioravanti describes it.

Capco, performing the steel erection work on the renovation project, opted for the 2250 crawler crane because of its capacity. “It’s designed for heavy loads, depending on the configuration,” Fioravanti explained. The 300-ton (272 t) capacity crane can be configured a number of ways, maximizing its capacity to 600 tons (544.3 t). “There’s a MAX-ER attachment that allows us to change the jib to a luffing jib that works back and forth for additional reach and movement.”

Because the crane weighs 290,000 lbs. (131,541 kg), Fioravanti explained that one unusual consideration on this job was fear of damaging the field. “We’re Red Sox fans with season tickets. That’s hallowed ground,” he laughs. All joking aside, moving the crane was done cautiously, using one-inch-thick steel plates to protect the field. Despite a tight deadline that required getting the crane working quickly, he said it was a necessary step, even if it added time. Moving wasn’t rushed; it was done “carefully, with a lot of planning. The deadline didn’t compromise anything. We work safely and methodically,” Fioravanti said.

With the deadline in mind, crews of approximately 50 are working double shifts seven days a week. Fioravanti indicated that weather has not been a significant factor, although he confessed that working around snow in an open dome is a challenge and that the cold temperatures can make “maintenance a headache.” However, with the 2250’s climate-controlled cab and other operator comforts, cold weather hasn’t hampered work.

Capco project manager Steve Bean indicated that weather hasn’t been the only challenge to the timeline: the close confines of the small stadium have made it difficult to stay on schedule. Because it’s so small, some of the crane work has to be conducted from outside the ballpark.

“It’s tough to work in the street. There are only certain hours we’re allowed to be in the street, so it limits our time,” Bean said. In addition to the Manitowoc 2250 crawler crane, Capco used a Grove GMK 90-ton hydraulic mobile crane to set structural steel.

Structural steel work was scheduled for completion by late January. Placement of pre-cast was scheduled to begin on January 24. Later work includes installing handrails and tables; the miscellaneous work will continue into March. Bean estimates that 400 tons (362 t) of steel and 200 pieces of pre-cast will be placed. In addition to using the 2250 to set structural steel and pre-cast, he said crews also are removing an old light tower and installing a new one.

Best Seat in the House

Built at a cost of $650,000, Boston’s historic Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912. The Red Sox won the World Series that year, and won it again three more times before 1918. Fans flocked to the cramped 35,000-seat ballpark: a 1935 doubleheader against the New York Yankees saw 47,627 fans squeeze in. But fire laws in the 1940s prohibited overcrowding, leaving the post-war record crowd considerably smaller at 36,388, set in 1978. Most of the old ballparks dating to that period are long gone, but despite issues with small clubhouses, creaking floorboards and damp tunnels to the dugouts, Fenway has survived and at the advanced age of 96, when other ballparks have long since given way to “progress,” Fenway is not only undergoing a facelift, but it’s also experiencing a growth spurt.

More than 800 new State Street pavilion seats will be added: 620 on the third base side of the park, 220 on the first base side. The pavilion area will be extended down the lines, with the new seats added to the third level above home plate. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino told reporters, “We understand the demand for such seats. Thus, we are adding to the supply.” The supply comes at a cost: ticket prices are going up (about 9 percent in 2008). However, adding 1,000 high-priced premium seats over three years will help defray construction costs. Besides, viewing opportunities will be increased and dramatically improved.

Structural upgrades and stabilization are underway in all seating areas. The Red Sox also have stated that at some point before the 2012 season they would like to replace the old wood seats in the Grandstand section. Additionally, eight new private suites will replace the six that were housed in the temporary boxes placed on the pavilion for the 1999 All-Star Game. Twelve other private suites will be renovated. For those who can’t stay seated during the game, a dedicated Standing Room Corner beyond the seats on the third base side will provide a unique view of the field. The increased standing room areas along with the additional seating will increase Fenway’s capacity to approximately 37,000, topping its 1978 record.

Other scheduled improvements include new scoreboards, new stairways and elevators, new permanent upgraded restrooms and concessions that will serve the State Street pavilion and the Green Monster and a new restaurant in center field. The new linear LED scoreboards will line portions of the EMC level fascia, providing better views of the scoreboards in center and left field. A new elevator and stairway in left field and the staircase from the Gate A area on Yawkey Way to the back of the grandstand at Section 27 will improve vertical circulation. Bleacher Bar and Grill will open at the start of the 2008 season in center field, also with a view of the ballpark. Service level improvements include additional sprinkler systems in the concourses and automatic exit doors in the roll down grates.

Structured Renovation

The club has made annual improvements since Principal Owner John Henry, Chairman Tom Werner, Lucchino and their partners purchased the club prior to the 2002 season. D’Agostino Izzo & Quirk of Somerville, Mass., designed this year’s improvements. William A. Berry & Son Inc. of Danvers, Mass., won the general contractor bid. Boston-based McNamara Salvia is the structural engineer and SEI of Boston is the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer. The code and life safety consultant is Howe Engineers of Sandwich, Mass.

All changes are being made in accordance with the standards set by the National Park Service and are reviewed in advance by the Massachusetts Historic Commission, the Boston City Landmarks Commission and Boston Redevelopment Authority.

“For decades,” Lucchino said, “there was a presumption that Fenway Park had outlived its useful life and, sentiment aside, would have to be replaced by a modern facility in another location. We are eager to see, in 2012, this ballpark become the first ever to celebrate its 100th anniversary.” CQ

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