New amenities honor Fenway's anniversary

New amenities honor Fenway's anniversary

New amenities honor Fenway's anniversary
BOSTON -- As the Red Sox prepared for their Monday night game in Toronto, still searching for answers in the bullpen while looking for their first win, mayor Thomas Menino sat in a golf cart at Fenway Park while being served shrimp, lobster, oysters, sushi, chicken and fruit.

Testing out the ballpark's new amenities before it hosts the Red Sox's season opener on Friday against the Rays, Menino was in a cheery mood. He had just been given his annual tour, highlighted by a trip through the new season ticket holders' hangout -- the Royal Rooters Club (which featured two World Series trophies, autographed memorabilia and the club's Cy Young and MVP awards, among others) -- and the mayor was now being fed by the chefs at Fenway's concession stands.

Menino sat with team president Larry Lucchino, and at least for the time being, seemed as happy as could be in Fenway Park. While there's no telling how the expected sell-out crowd on Friday will welcome its home team after a disappointing finish to last season and a paralleled start to this one, Lucchino is hoping the fans react just as Menino did on Monday -- forgetting about the team's struggles and getting lost in the charm of Fenway Park.

"I don't need to tell you how long the season is," Lucchino said. "We still have 98 percent of it left, so enough said there. Be patient."

"We're always patient," quipped Menino, "but we're passionate, too."

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year -- which will take place on April 20, with plenty of surprises for those in attendance, Lucchino said -- Fenway Park was looking as new as it is old on Monday, when Harvard's baseball team held practice there to commemorate the first exhibition game between the Crimson and the Sox.

The field's grass was as green as ever, and the bleachers clean, with seats folded up, begging to be sat in. There aren't a ton of new amenities this year, after unveiling three new scoreboards before the 2011 season, but Lucchino assured the mayor that while the changes are less dramatic, they're still significant.

Aside from a museum's worth of Red Sox history sitting in the Royal Rooters' Club, old memorabilia is also placed throughout the ballpark. A display near Gate B includes advertisements from the 1940s and a uniform worn by an usher (the patches on the shirt boast 75-cent Fenway Franks and 55-cent ice cream -- a trust testament to its age).

Down the concourse toward the outfield, the walls are painted with quotes from former Boston mayor John "Honey" Fitz and former president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who made his final campaign speech of his political career at Fenway Park in 1944.

And while the park continues to have new additions, it seems to reek of baseball history more and more each year.

"Since the ownership has taken over, they've spent $275 million on the ballpark -- all their own money," Menino said. "I'm just proud of what this old ballpark looks like today."

Menino said he's been doing a study on the impact of Fenway Park on the Boston economy, a project he hopes to have completed by Friday. And while he once had his doubts about how long Fenway's old structure would be able to last, he said he thinks the park could stay viable for another 100 years.

But at least for right now, it's hard to imagine Boston fans will be thinking that far ahead. Their team is 0-3, with a schedule that doesn't get any easier (after the Blue Jays, the Sox have series against the Rays, Rangers and Yankees), and a home opener scheduled for Friday.

If Boston's mayor isn't worried, though, perhaps the fans could breathe a little bit easier.

"We're off to a slow start, but we're following the footsteps of [last year's] team, also who was expected to do well," Menino said. "I think it's the first three games -- you can't judge the season -- we have a lot of games after this point."

Jason Mastrodonato is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.