Red Sox play the Miami Marlins in Fenway Park
It’s been nearly 20 months since Fenway Park invited this type of audience to a Red Sox baseball game.
The 2019 season finale was the last time Boston played its historic diamond with no capacity restrictions. Mookie Betts slipped home with the winning run, Alex Cora was in his first leadership position on the team, and Chaim Bloom was executive with the Rays.
These changes in the local baseball world seem insignificant compared to society as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands, made millions sick, and caused incalculable financial hardship in the United States alone. This painful time in our history, which begins in March 2020, is finally showing signs of subsiding.
On Saturday afternoon, the Red Sox welcomed just over 25,000 fans to Fenway Park. The pouring rain that began Friday night and continued until the following morning limited actual guests in the seats, but the initial demand for tickets was encouraging for the Boston Front Office. They hope to see full capacity when the season pass packages for the next Homestand go into effect on June 8th.
“Fenway will be the Fenway we all know and love,” said Kennedy. “It will be a step back in time when you enter Fenway Park.”
Vendors were let loose in the aisles selling the typical drinks, hot dogs and ice cream. Security guards and ushers took tickets and led people to their seats. Halls that housed weight rooms and training facilities during the empty 2020 season have been cleared.
The Red Sox could take a first hit in terms of visitor numbers. Kennedy estimated the club kept up to 90% of its previous season ticket base, which leaves more uncertainty as it relies on matchday sales. The human impact of the pandemic, the economic impact in the area, and the club’s miserable performance on the pitch last season all help to reduce it.
“My mother is a little hesitant,” said Kennedy. “She asks me if that’s okay. We have heard a certain reluctance from various sections of the population. We’ve heard a lot of other people say, “I can’t wait to get to Fenway – get back to normal.”
“In various conversations, we heard answers all over the card. I think we all have to be very sensitive. People have very different feelings when they emerge from the past 15 months’ experience. We just have to be careful and respect it when it comes to the people entering the building. ”
Kennedy said unvaccinated fans and club staff are encouraged to continue wearing face covering. Pre-season hand sanitizing stations are likely to stay in place, as are signage in waiting lounges and near toilets reminding people to practice good hygiene and wash their hands frequently. Food and beverage workers may be asked to wear masks for a short time while the ballpark reopens.
“You will also see a Fenway Park that you are used to,” said Kennedy. “For business and competitive reasons you want to see 37,000 here, but I think this gives us a chance … to have our sea legs under us and be ready to go on June 8th.”
Houston and Toronto are playing a seven-game home game starting that night, and the Red Sox expect a full staff to be available. Boston successfully hired to fill the majority of its seasonal vacancies to operate the ballpark. Food and beverage company Aramark has been forced to put in place some contingency plans, such as some restaurants and bars in the area struggling to fill vacancies.
“Eating and drinking were a little more difficult,” said Kennedy. “Our partners at Aramark have worked really hard and gone to some of their other accounts, other venues that they have in New England. You have a lot of people who come and help. ”
Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees – separated according to their test requirements – worked in the stadium throughout the season. The Red Sox are expected to voluntarily begin reopening their front office on June 7th, bringing back employees who are in Tier 3 or below. Boston plans a full series of concerts later this year – six dates in August, one in September, and one in October – and will host the first Fenway Bowl between two college football programs on December 29th.
“Hopefully we’ve had a unique experience in 100 years,” said Kennedy. “Having that traditional Fenway Park experience – a full house. It was a very, very difficult time for so many people not being able to get together with your teammates.