A Fenway Park Neighborhood Update was held both virtually and in person at the Ford Clubhouse on April 6, where the Red Sox gave updates on goings-on in the area of the ballpark and what to expect for the upcoming baseball and concert season.
MGM Music Hall
Claire Durant, Director of Business & Government Affairs for the Red Sox, spoke about the new 5,000 person capacity MGM Music Hall, which is slated to be open early this fall for concerts.
Durant said that a conditional use permit is being sought for electronic signage on the exterior of the building, which is allowed in the area. She said that the goal is to “make sure it fits in a tasteful way that compliments the street.”
All signs are LED-based, she said, and will include a ribbon board marquee and a deco blade that will be “dynamic signage,” which includes the “ability to show some moving content and be changed out based on what events are happening at the music hall,” she said. There will also be blade signs on the sides of the building that will be static.
The electronic signage is permitted to be on between the hours of 7am and 2am, though they likely will not be on for all those hours at a time. No sound will be emitted from the signs, she added.
The theater is set to have a soft opening this August, with a grand opening set for the first two weeks of September. She said that the existing scaffolding will come down over the next several says, and “some streetscape work is projected to start at the end of this month.”
Durant also spoke about the ballpark’s new bleacher area, which will be ready for opening day on the 15th, as well as a 600 person function space that can be divided into four rooms but will not be “super active during games,” but rather used for things like charitable events, weddings, meetings, and the like.
The Red Sox talked about various events and ways the ballpark was used this past off-season, from a vaccination site in January and February to a distribution site for Thanksgiving meals. They also talked about the Fenway College Bowl football game that had to be cancelled due to the Omicron variant, as well as the labor dispute with the MLB.
Sonya Bhabhalia, Government Affairs and Corporate Communications Specialist for the Red Sox, gave an update on the Red Sox’s social justice efforts. She said that there are 150 Red Sox staff that are volunteers on different subcommittees that were started in 2020 on “a rage of issues from marketing and employee support and how we work with minority owned businesses.”
At the end of last summer, the Red Sox hired a “dedicated diversity, equity, and inclusion program specialist to our front office staff,” who is “helping to take all of those ideas we came up with and turn them into actual programs. A lot of this work is internally facing and affecting our staff, so you may not see it reflected out in public,” she said.
Additionally, the Red Sox are hosting “cultural heritage nights” at certain games this summer, including May 3, which will be Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Night, Pride Night in June, and Puerto Rican heritage night at the end of July. She also said that there are a “couple more in the works that have not been announced yet.”
Additionally, Neighborhood Night will be on May 20. All themes can be found at redsox.com/themes.
Bhabhalia said that the Red Sox has also been working on increasing accessibility at Fenway Park, and has been working with an organization called Culture City on things like sensory accessibility needs, including “special sunglasses for folks with light sensitivity and weighted lap pads.” They are also working on adding closed captioning to the MLB Ballpark App.
While the Black Lives Matter billboard on the outside of the ballpark is being replaced with one celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Red Sox Foundation, there will be permanent Black Lives Matter signage and messaging within the ballpark.
“It’s obviously still something we stand behind very strongly,” said Dave Friedman, Senior Vice President, Legal & Government Affairs for the Red Sox.
Bhabhalia was excited to announce that Neighborhood 9s has returned, meaning that any resident of Fenway, Kenmore, and Audubon Circle—including the East Fens zip code of 02115—are eligible to receive up to four tickets per game for as many as five regular season games for $9 each. If people have registered in the past, they must re-register at redsox.com/neighborhood.
2022 Summer Concerts
Following a public comment period and a public hearing where many residents attended to provide feedback, the City of Boston Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs has approved 12 concerts for this upcoming summer, after the Red Sox had asked for 16.
Friedman said that the Red Sox believe 16 was a reasonable number to ask for since four concerts were postponed in 2020, and the typical ask is for 12 concerts. Some residents have spoken out in favor of the concerts, while others had outstanding concerns about things like noise, traffic, and the number of concerts proposed.
“We agreed with the city that 12 is an appropriate number,” he said. So far, only 10 shows have been announced, and “we don’t know if we’ll have an 11th or 12th,” Friedman added.
He then went over several things that the Red Sox will be dealing with surrounding the concerts, including volume and sound levels, parking enforcement, issues with traffic and disorderly conduct, trash cleanup, end times for concerts, and the hotline for feedback and complaints.
Friedman also talked about Project Place and its work with cleaning up the Fenway Park area following concerts, as they have done in the past.
Discussion of a long-term concert licensing plan also took place, as this is a topic that has come up in recent months, with City Councilor Kenzie Bok writing a letter calling for more of a concrete long term plan.
“As far as licensing goes…we’ve been consistent over the years in pursuing up to 12 concerts,” Friedman said. “The city has approved up to 12 shows on a regular basis for many years.”
He said that moving forward, the Red Sox will ask for their typical 12 concerts a year, though “there might be a random, unusual year” where they ask for an additional concert or two. Though they are “not promising we’d never ask for more than 12, you should expect that we’re not going to be asking for more than 12 shows,” Friedman said. “That’s how we think of a longer-term arrangement…We think that there’s an opportunity to try to make this a more stable, predictable business.”
City Councilor Kenzie Bok referenced the letter she had written regarding the issue of concerts.
“My real objective is how to think about the impacts on the neighborhood, the positive impacts on the business side, and the question of sort of how to figure out something sustainable; predictable for everybody and accountable,” Bok said at the meeting.
She also said that she wants to ensure that when “negative externalities” are seen, that they are being properly addressed and “not just talked about.”
She continued, “my intention is over the coming months to really be working with all of you and with those parties to think about how we come up with something that’s more multi-year and stable in that way that we can all kind of rely on and not be exhausted by”—before the 2023 licensing season comes around.
Anyone with questions, concerns, or comments on any topic related to Fenway Park can reach out to Dave Friedman at [email protected], Claire Durant at [email protected], or Sonya Bhabhalia at [email protected]. They can also provide the full video recording of this meeting. For more information on the Red Sox, including this year’s game schedule, visit mlb.com/redsox.