Red Sox improving outdated drainage system

Updated: November 23, 2004, 7:51 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- There was a bulldozer in front of the Green Monster, a pickup truck by the Pesky Pole and mounds of dirt where there once was grass.

The Boston Red Sox are rebuilding their antiquated playing field just weeks after they buried another part of their history by winning their first World Series title in 86 years. Yet to be decided is whether they want to replace Fenway Park with a new stadium.

"That depends on our long-term ability to make the kind of changes that we think need to be made both to the ballpark and the neighborhood," team president Larry Lucchino said Tuesday. "We are working on that master plan but we haven't completed it."

The field dimensions won't change and no seating will be added for next season. Fenway holds about 35,000 fans, and the team plans to add about 1,000 seats for 2006.

Improved drainage will allow the infield to be flatter by removing a crown that helped water drain toward foul territory. Rain delays and postponements should decrease, and center fielder Johnny Damon should not have to splash through puddles to track down fly balls.

"This will put us in the modern age" of playing fields, director of grounds Dave Mellor said. "Some front lawns were better than this."

The makeover of a ballpark that opened the week the Titanic sank in 1912 extends to the Red Sox clubhouse, which will be more than doubled in size by the home opener against the Yankees on April 11. A batting tunnel and video room will be added directly behind Boston's dugout.

"The depth and extent of this effort is, we believe, the most significant in decades, perhaps ever," Lucchino said. "The changes will affect our ballplayers, so that we will gain some competitive advantage."

The club also will complete installation of a new electrical power system.

"There was a moment in time two seasons ago where (the concessionaire) asked to install an additional pizza oven," said Janet Marie Smith, Red Sox vice president of planning and development. "We literally could not say yes to it because the power was so tapped out here at Fenway."

The new field will have a drainage system with 3 inches of gravel topped by 9 inches of sand through which water can seep away from the surface. The old field was built more than 30 years ago on more tightly clumped dirt.

Barring weather delays, workmen will start laying infield sod on Saturday, and all the grass should be down by Tuesday. The Red Sox finished their sweep of St. Louis in the World Series on Oct. 27. Mellor's crew then spent 4 days excavating the old field -- from which four million pounds of soil were removed -- and 13 days preparing the new one for fresh sod.

"Two of my dreams were the Red Sox winning the World Series and a new playing field," Mellor said.

Lucchino estimated the cost of the field work at $1.5 million to $2 million.

"If we can save one rainout a year," he said, "we will essentially pay for the cost of the better drainage system and the new field."

The current clubhouse is the smallest in the majors, covering 6,000 square feet, Smith said. The main section will remain the same but 7,500 square feet will be added for workout, training, rehabilitation and other support areas.

Players requested specific improvements, and the World Series victory helped the club go ahead with some of them. The team also raised ticket prices for next season by an average of 7 percent.

"One of the commitments we made to them during the course of the year was that if you win we will do a lot of the things that you're talking about," Lucchino said. "We'll have the opportunity to generate additional revenue if you win and some part of that revenue will go to the facilities."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press