Fenway renovations on schedule

Red Sox plowing ahead with renovations

BOSTON -- With the home opener some 62 days away, Fenway Park currently looks anything like a stadium that will host the Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays on April 11.

But mark this down: The old place will be ready, complete with all kinds of new stuff.

The Red Sox, in their latest move at renovating and upgrading a ballpark that opened in 1912, have torn the upper portion of Fenway apart, in what club president/CEO Larry Lucchino calls "the largest renovation in the history of Fenway Park."

Wednesday, the Sox gave the media a tour of the site, complete with hard hats. A walk out to the Green Monster seats, an earlier upgrade of this regime, showed a look at the home plate area that looks entirely different. Gone is the high glass that sat in front of what was the .406 Club. That area will be open now, with a lower half -- the EMC Club, a $275 seat that will be heated -- and upper half known as the Home Plate Pavilion.

The top portion will connect with the roof boxes that have also been replaced by what will now be a permanent base structure.

The capacity for this season, according to the fire code, will be 38,805, up from 36,298 last year. After the club finishes all upgrades -- this is the fifth one so far under current ownership -- by the park's 100th birthday in 2012, the capacity is projected to be 39,968.

That's a ways off, though.

For now, a mild Boston winter has helped crews get their work done. Red Sox senior vice president for planning and development Janet Marie Smith, who is overseeing the project, said a harsh winter wouldn't have threatened completion for the home opener, but the thus-far soft winter, which included the warmest January in memory, has helped.

"I would not say the mild winter took away the risk," she said. "It certainly makes it easier."

While the actual seating construction takes place, other improvements are going on everywhere. The concourses around Fenway have been dug up as the Sox install new piping for sprinklers. The giant speaker in center field, which spread sound more to the surrounding neighborhood than to all sections of seats (and was acquired from the Eric Clapton tour), has been pulled out. A new system, aimed at keeping the sound inside the park and reaching all sections, is being put in.

There will also be a new power station, as well as an emergency public address system on the concourses.

"There's a lot of work that's not as photogenic as the new seats are," Smith said.

She added the issue of the old seats -- some 12,000 that clearly don't live up to any comfort standards -- will, at some point, be replaced, at a loss of seating but an aid to comfort.

Smith noted there's a reason why the top of the stadium has been a priority.

"We had to protect what's here and work our way down," Smith said, adding there will be "a complete overhaul of the infrastructure by the time this is all done, in 2012."

"We do need to redo the lower bowl for the purpose of waterproofing the structure," Smith added.

Lucchino said, "This is the fifth of a multi-year program. This is the largest chunk, but by no means the final element."

He added that the Sox will work "up to and until the 100th anniversary. We think of that as an end point to much of the work we are trying to do."

He thanked Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and the Boston Redevelopment Authority for their "enthusiastic cooperation" with what the Sox are trying to do in the "preservation and protection of Fenway Park.

"That is the mantra we live by -- the preservation of protection of Fenway Park."

Mike Shalin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.