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Red Sox improving outdated drainage system

11/23/2004 - Boston Red Sox

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 4½ 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."