Winds and losses
Nearby buildings could deliver blow to Sox' HR totals
Renovations at Fenway Park may not affect wind currents there, but Trilogy, the Fenway Ventures development at the intersection of Boylston Street and Brookline Avenue (background), may. (Globe Staff Photo / Stan Grossfeld)
Forget about Manny's state of mind, David Wells's California dreamin', and whether the new slick-fielding shortstop can hit his weight.
There's some new turbulence blowing over Fenway Park these days.
Wind patterns in the 94-year-old baseball temple are being affected by new construction in the neighborhood, and it just might turn a David Ortiz bleacher blast into a warning-track catch by a certain clean-shaven Yankees center fielder.
''We had a wind study done by an independent consultant," said John Giangregorio of D'Agostino, Izzo and Quirk, chief architects of the ongoing renovations at the park. ''I think you'll find that there might be slightly fewer balls that are going to find their way those last few feet over the fence or over the Green Monster. I think somebody like Ortiz is not going to like that."
Giangregorio built a 1:500 scale model of Fenway and observed wind tests recently at MIT's Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel. The Sox wanted to see whether their own new construction inside the park affected wind patterns.
But according to Janet Marie Smith, the Red Sox' senior vice president for planning and development, the tests raised more concerns about the hot real estate market around Fenway Park.
''If I had to worry about the winds, it would be the concern with the [17-story] Trilogy project down the street," said Smith. ''It's going to impact the wind. That is the direction [southwest] of the prevailing winds in spring and summer."
Trilogy is a $200 million Fenway Ventures development at the intersection of Boylston Street and Brookline Avenue. It will include 12-, 15-, and 17-story towers linked by 10-story mid-rise buildings. It will feature shops and much-needed housing for the nearby medical community. The project was hailed as an ''anchor for a new and revitalized Boylston Street," by Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
But the jury is still out as to whether it will be an anchor to fly balls arching toward the Green Monster.
''If the winds change, it won't be anything we've done, it will be having a taller building [nearby]," said Smith. ''If it were any closer, we'd be really concerned about it. It's probably just on the cusp."
According to architect Giangregorio, the wind effect is noticeable from Trilogy, which is 800-900 feet away.
''We did look at the model with just the Trilogy on it and no other development on it," said Giangregorio. ''What we found was that the Trilogy building increases the turbulence in the air above Fenway Park and elevates the shear layer somewhat above the shear level of the .406 Club. So it does have some effect."
The shear layer is the difference between the constant flow of wind at a certain height and the stationary wind that's captured by the bowl inside Fenway Park.
''It's mostly increasing turbulence, which means that instead of smooth flow over the park you get wind that's twisting in eddies in kind of unpredictable ways," said Giangregorio. ''You could generalize and say it's not a good effect on the ball, but what effect is it? It's hard to say, specifically.
''But it definitely showed that it did change patterns. There's definitely more turbulence in the air around the park. It's not a clear flow the way a wake behind a boat might be.
''I don't think it's going to slow down home runs, but it means more that it doesn't help because it's an unpredictable air flow and the ball might have to travel a little bit higher to the point where the wind might help it.
''Does it have an effect that gets it to the center-field fence and it needs just 1 or 2 feet more to get over? Those balls might be affected, you might find that less of those will make the distance. Could you put a number on it? Not really."
''We have no evidence, no indication that this is factual," said Samuels. ''We heard they were going to do a wind study, but we heard no results of it whatsoever."
Samuels, who said the top floors do not have a view of the playing field, denied a request to allow a photographer access.
''Whatever comments are being made, I don't know anything about it," he said. ''That's the first I'm hearing of that. I have a very amicable relationship with the Red Sox."
Samuels said Fenway Ventures, a joint venture between his company and Boylston Properties, did its own wind studies and Trilogy passed with flying colors.
''The appropriate way to do them [is] you measure the wind effects around [the building] based on pedestrians," he said. ''That's what you're worried about, what wind does on the ground."
Fans buying tickets at the Fenway box office this week seemed more concerned with getting two seats together than with the wind.
''I don't care about that; the Red Sox don't own the sky," said Dr. Bruce Koplan of Brookline, who purchased two grandstand seats a row apart. ''I'm more concerned with brokers buying up the seats and creating a secondary market."
Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino said the wind issue is overblown.
''It's coming from an independent outside consultant whose work I have not seen," Lucchino said.
The Fenway neighborhood is a touchy subject for Red Sox brass, given their own expansion plans. He said Samuels and the Red Sox have a ''good working relationship."
''It's not a matter of major concern to us at this point," added Lucchino. ''We would be concerned if it were closer and we were told the nearness would have a detrimental effect.
''We are not concerned with Trilogy at this point. Our job is to preserve and protect Fenway Park. Trilogy has not had any material detrimental effect to Fenway as far as we can tell."
Sox fans had hoped that the reconfiguration of the Club and the new open-air seating would add some pop to the Sox' bats. Smith says that's not the case.
''It won't have a thing to do with that, either way," she said. ''What changed the home runs when it was built was the sheer mass of that volume, and the envelope is the same. The seats will be out in the fresh air once again, but the volume that captures the prevailing winds as they come across doesn't change at all."
Smith said the height of the structure behind home plate remains exactly the same, and the wind still will be blocked.
The height of Fenway Park on the first and third base sides will rise by more than 20 feet to accommodate six more rows of seating. But the Sox say this will have a negligible effect on wind currents.
''The outcome of the report was we were not going to be changing in any material way the outcome of the wind inside Fenway Park with the new additions," said Giangregorio.
But the study seems to vindicate Boggs's theory.
''It's what I've been saying all along," contended the Hall of Famer. ''It did make a difference on the ball. It's nice to find out that somebody was on my side. I was right."
Said Giangregorio, ''We tested the Fenway Park model by removing the .406 model and we did find that there was a significant change that the .406 club had on the wind patterns. Wind behaves in many components, so it's hard to say how much.
''When you add elevation in the direction of the wind, you elevate the shear level. That's what happened when they built the .406 Club. A ball would have to travel higher to get to a point where the air was flowing more smoothly and help the ball travel a little farther, but I couldn't put any numbers on it."
But fewer home runs could lead to swirling winds of discontent across Red Sox Nation.