boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe
Red Sox plans for Fenway Park, shown in an artist's rendering, would include open-air seating and standing-room areas.
Red Sox plans for Fenway Park, shown in an artist's rendering, would include open-air seating and standing-room areas.

Sox to add upscale seats; sponsor signed

Red Sox executives said yesterday they plan to add more than 1,000 high-priced premium seats to Fenway Park over the next three years and signed a high- profile sponsorship deal, as the team looks for ways to squeeze new revenue from the oldest and smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

The seats, approved by the city earlier this year, are part of the biggest expansion of the ballpark since principal owner John W. Henry and his group of limited investors bought the team, and come as the owners have formally committed to staying at Fenway.

The most expensive of the seats will sell for $275 in the newly renamed EMC Club, which will be sponsored by EMC Corp., one of the state's largest technology firms. The open-air EMC Club seats will replace a portion of the team's existing .406 Club, a glassed-in luxury seating area named to honor the last .400 hitter in baseball, Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

For the first time, the Red Sox plan to provide new ''concierge" services to EMC Club members to help them book the team's road games and other sporting events, and they are adding an upscale restaurant and waiter service for club members. Members also will be able to book business functions and parties on nongame days.

''This is an opportunity to create some areas that will be state of the art when compared to other sports facilities around the country," said Sam Kennedy, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Red Sox. ''Fans have not seen the likes of these kinds of areas ever before at Fenway Park."

Other seats and standing-room areas that will replace portions of the .406 Club and the current rooftop boxes will range in price from $25 for standing room to $195 for a seat on the renamed ''pavilion level" behind home plate, above the EMC Club. In total, the Red Sox plan to add 2,800 new seats and standing-room spots by opening day 2008.

For fans who are willing to pay, many of the new seats will be more comfortable than the cramped seating in most of the ballpark. The Sox will widen some of the new seats and add legroom, and the team is looking at ways to add overhead heaters and individual heated seats.

The addition of the premium seats will bring the team more in line with ballparks around the country, Red Sox executives said. The Sox currently have about 2,300 premium seats, or 6 percent of the ballpark. When the renovations are complete, about 9 percent, or 3,600, of the seats will be labeled premium.

But the Sox rank behind some newer ballparks, where 11 percent to 19 percent of seats are considered premium, Sox executives said. The Red Sox define premium seats as those attached to amenities or benefits, such as a lounge or seated waiter service.

The additional seats will bring Fenway's capacity to 38,805 by 2007. The Sox have said they ultimately plan to expand the park's seating to nearly 40,000, but they have not finalized plans.

The small size of Fenway Park has been an obstacle for the Red Sox to compete financially. Under previous ownership, the Sox argued that they would need a new, larger ballpark in order to pay for escalating player salaries and other expenses. But when Henry and his group of limited partners bought the team in 2002, they tried to look at ways to save Fenway first. (Henry's investors include The New York Times Co., parent of The Boston Globe, which owns 17 percent of the Red Sox).

Over the past three years, the Red Sox have invested tens of millions of dollars into the ballpark, including the addition of seats and upgrades. The average ticket price increased 9 percent from last year to $44.56, according to Team Marketing Report, a sports marketing publishing company. Since 2002, Fenway ticket prices have climbed 12 percent, the publication found. Team Marketing Report surveys do not include the price of luxury-suite tickets.

Red Sox executives said yesterday that the addition of premium seating would help keep costs down for average fans, as the team collects more revenue from premium tickets.

Mike Dee, the team's chief operating officer, said the lack of premium seating ''is one of the reasons why across-the-board price increases that were prevalent late 1990s stung lower-cost seats as much as they did," Dee said.

The Sox, who have no plans to sell naming rights to Fenway, have pursued corporate sponsorships and naming rights for areas inside the ballpark, such as the EMC Club.

The Red Sox are moving through their new seat additions in phases.

By opening day 2006, the Sox plan to open the new EMC Club in the lower part of the .406 Club, and open a new Home Plate Pavilion Club section with 374 seats above that. The Sox are searching for a naming rights sponsor for the upper section. Also for 2006, the Sox plan to add 852 pavilion club seats, 745 pavilion box seats, and about 200 pavilion standing-room seats along the left- and right-field lines. The Sox will take out about 1,300 seats in those areas to make room for the new seats.

Displaced season ticket holders will get preference for the new seats, followed by current season ticket holders who want to upgrade.

In the next phase, the Sox plan to add about 700 tickets by opening day 2007, and they will add about 1,400 tickets in the following phase for the 2008 season.

In the new deal with EMC, the data storage company will supply the Sox with equipment and technology to store digitized video of games, so that the team can retrieve players' past at-bats and study performance against various pitchers. EMC also gets a sign in left field and an undisclosed number of seats in the EMC Club.

The deal allows the company to be able to tap team management, including general manager Theo Epstein and chief executive Larry Lucchino, to tell EMC clients how the company has helped them. EMC declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal or its length.

Sasha Talcott can be reached at stalcott@globe.com.


In Today's Globe
red sox extras
SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
   
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months