The Fenway neighborhood has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, both with the building boom adding numerous residential apartments to the area in addition to the hip new restaurant scene that now lines Boylston Street.
Everywhere you look there seems to be a new building rising or a new business opening, but all of this new traffic to the neighborhood is starting to wear down the current residents. Sure enough, the increase of large events at Fenway Park is not helping either.
In a quest to help mitigate the impacts of traffic, noise, trash and parking surrounding Fenway Park events, residents continue to plea for some relief, especially from concerts.
“It is a quality of life issue,” said Kristen Mobilia a community activist. “It’s not an issue of concerts – it’s the aggregation of them that is difficult to live with.”
Live Nation came in front of the Boston Licensing Board to apply for 12 concert dates at Fenway Park on Wednesday, Jan. 31. The Licensing Board will make a decision on the matter on Thursday, Feb. 1.
At-large City Councilor Michelle Wu noted that no matter what is done, this is putting the Fenway neighborhood into a difficult situation.
“It’s not a fair fight for the residents,” said Wu. “We all see the concerts in a good light in terms of the vitality it brings to the city with the growth in retail and restaurants, and we are asking you to bear the brunt of the impact.”
Wu said that the conversation shouldn’t be about the number of concerts but how the Fenway Sports Group is working towards mitigating those impacts towards the residents in the long-term, instead of addressing the same issues year by year.
“Fenway Park is a major sports hub in the heart of a major city,” said Wu. “We want to make sure that it is livable and continue that partnership.”
Lawrence Cancro, senior vice president of Fenway Concerts and Entertainment said that he believes the concerts at Fenway Park have been successful. “Successful meaning artistically, successful to providing economic benefits to the community and successful to adding a vibrancy to the city.”
Fenway Park slowly added concerts and events as the years went by. Last year Live Nation had eight concert dates. Years prior, they had three to six concerts per summer.
Mobilia noted that with 12 concerts a summer on top of the home baseball games and other events held at Fenway Park, it leaves only about 25 percent of the weekends open for residents to enjoy a crowd-free, summer day in their own neighborhood.
David Friedman, senior vice president to legal and government affairs for the Red Sox, said he understands that events at Fenway Park have a real impact to the neighborhood.
“We do not claim to be perfect and neighbors have legitimate issues that need to be addressed,” said Friedman. “It is time to hit the reset button and do more than in the past.”
Friedman said they had expanded their trash pick up program to clean up to start the night of the concert and have installed new temporary sound panels to help block the noise from emitting out into the neighborhoods.
Friedman proposed creating a Concert Neighborhood Advisory Group Meeting that would continue the dialogue between residents and the Fenway Sports Group.
“It is not the beginning or end in terms of the dialogue,” said Friedman. “We want to sit down with residents and have them be part of the plan to make the improvements. We’ll offer to make the meetings open and be transparent.”
Last year there were two calls to complain about the noise during a concert at Fenway Park. This was directly to the switchboard operator that has a special number separate to Boston’s 311 system or 911 complaints made to the police.
The biggest issue is that residents have stated concerns over noise and noted there is no sound study measuring the level noise before, during and after a concert or major event.
“There are no records of sound checks,” said Dennis Quilty, attorney for the Red Sox. “There’s just not, they don’t exist.”
Residents have said they have called the Boston Police Department and learned that there is no police officer monitoring the sound coming from an event at Fewnay Park.
Chairwoman Christine Pulgini said to her knowledge, the Licensing Board has a police officer designated to check on the sound level of the event, but they don’t stay there all night. Pulgini said it is similar to a speed radar gun – they go check the figures to see if it is in compliance but there are no print outs of the decibel records.
Tim Horn, president of the Fenway Civic Association, said it is all about balance. He would like to work with the Fenway Sports Group to figure out the right number of major events that should be held at the park each month.
“We want to figure out the total impact of the events are because it’s not just during baseball season, it’s during the spring and fall too,” said Horn. “We really appreciate what you are doing with sound Billy Joel, Journey and Def Leppard, and Pearl Jam. barriers. It’s meaningful, and you really did something, and we would like to see more of that.”
Despite concerns from residents many business groups are in support of the additional events, saying the extra foot traffic really does make a difference.
“I am very much in support of the concerts,” said Pam Beale representing Kenmore businesses. “Restaurants and businesses really do thrive from the concerts. It’s moved from a family night to individual adults going out, which is a different audience. New businesses have come into the area because it is so close to the ballpark – it’s a tremendous benefit.”
City Councilor Josh Zakim’s office was in support of the concerts, but asked the Licensing Board to grant the same number of concerts, as last year, which were eight. Ed Flynn’s office said they were also in support of the concerts but asked that the Fewnay Sports Group continue conversations with residents.
Already Fenway Park has secured eight concert dates including the Zac Brown Band, Foo Fighters,