Licensing Board Holds Public Hearing Regarding 16 Concerts Proposed for Fenway

The Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing (MOCAL) held a virtual public hearing on March 2 to allow residents to weigh in on the 16 proposed summer concerts at Fenway Park this year.

The Red Sox filed the application for 16 concerts on Jan. 4 this year, and the comment period went from Jan. 5 to Feb. 4.

The concerts are proposed for the following dates between the hours of 5pm-10:30pm:

• June 7-8

• June 10

• July 1-2

• July 14-16

• August 5-6 – Def Leppard/Motley Crue (rescheduled)

• August 7

• August 18-20

• September 8 – Aerosmith (rescheduled)

• September 10 – Red Hot Chili Peppers

“My decision on the approved number of concerts is not just a rubber stamp,” said MOCAL Executive Director Kathleen Joyce. She said the purpose of this hearing was to provide the public with “an additional chance” to provide feedback on the proposaL. The ultimate decision on how many concerts are approved lies solely in Joyce’s hands.

The 16 proposed concerts include the typical 12 that the Red Sox have proposed in the past few years, plus an additional four to make up for concerts that were postponed due to the pandemic.

City Councilors Michael Flaherty and Erin Murphy submitted written letters of support, Joyce said, while Councilor Kenzie Bok, whose district includes the Fenway, provided arguments both in favor and against the proposal in her letter, as well as advocated for a longer term licensing agreement.

Joyce also reported that the office received 23 letters in opposition from abutters, as well as 16 letters of support from abutters. She also said that letters in support were received from restaurant employees and stagehands, saying that these concerts help to pay their bills.

Residents who are against the number of concerts proposed say that there are noise and quality of life issues due to the concerts.

“I have read every single piece of testimony that has been submitted to this office,” Joyce said, before allowing Dave Friedman, Senior Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs for the Red Sox, to present the proposal.

Friedman said that the goal of having 16 concerts is to focus on “recovery” for the Fenway. He said that concerts have been going on at Fenway Park for 19 years and are “now nationally recognized.”

He said that the “concert business is very unpredictable and fluid,” and that “in normal times,” the Red Sox believe that 12 concerts is the appropriate amount. He said that in future years, the Red Sox do not plan on asking for more than 12 concerts, but this year should be an exception because of loss from the pandemic.

In 2020, there were no concerts with live audiences at Fenway Park, and in 2021, there were seven.

“Many people and businesses are making up for lost time,” Friedman said, adding later that “We do recognize that hosting large concerts has an impact on the neighborhood.”

In response to past complaints about noise levels, the Red Sox have “installed heavy buffering curtains,” Friedman said, to which some residents have responded positively.

He also said that they “work closely with Captain Sweeney,” the Boston Police Department, and the Boston Transportation Department and “do our best with traffic, parking, and post concert behavior issues.”

There is also a hotline for residents to call with any noise complaints, and Friedman said that Red Sox employees personally walk the neighborhood to monitor sound levels.

Joyce said that in the past she has heard Billy Joel’s concert from her house in Dorchester, and understands that some things such as the wind, cannot be controlled.

“It’s very important to me that our business community thrives,” said Councilor Kenzie Bok. “I’m very sympathetic to the needs there.”

However, she said she also understood that there are issues of noise, sanitation, security, and traffic.

“I want to give credit to the Red Sox for the significant improvement that has happened in. A number of those areas she said,” but “it really feels to me like we need a long-term resolution of this issue.”

Fenway resident John Bookston said that “this is an issue which benefits a huge number of business people, the Red Sox number one, but lots of neighborhoods. I agree with Councilor Bok that it needs to be done to help the bottom line. However, there needs to be compensation to residents in the neighborhood.

He suggested that a “professional sound company” measure the noise levels in the neighborhood, and also suggested that the Fenway Civic Association be compensated “for making things easier for residents; not necessarily just on those days, but maybe so.” He also suggested that residents of the neighborhood be given $100 to “get out of the neighborhood and have a nice dinner that night.”

Bookston also spoke about how “horrendous” the traffic is on nights when there are concerts.

Licensing Board secretary Danny Green said that the board cannot consider monetary benefits in the decision making process for approving these concerts.

Many other residents provided commentary as well, such as Tim Horn of the Fenway Civic Association, who said “we don’t really formally oppose the concerts this year. It is COVID. We do understand that there is some need.” He did, however, agree that a longer term plan or agreement is necessary to deal with the concerts.

Long-time Fenway activist Kristen Mobilia said she was speaking on behalf of herself as well as some of her neighbors who could not make it to the hearing.

“The argument for Fenway Sports Group missing out on four concerts last year is just a real stretch,” she said. “Unfortunately, we’ve all suffered.” She said that while it is true that residents should have had some expectation of noise when they decided to move into a neighborhood with a baseball park, she believes more compromise is needed when it comes to the concerts, and would prefer to see a maximum of six concerts per year.

She also said that “if businesses need support,” then a “year-round plan” should be put into place to give employees the stability they need.

“Where’s the transportation study?” she asked. “Where are the facts?” She also said she supports a “good neighbor agreement.”

Mobilia also mentioned the use of “pyrotechnics” at a concert that she said “were not announced until after the concert had started.”

Resident Joe Arbeely wrote in the chat: “Disagree (mostly) with Kristen. I am annoyed. I am a local resident that also works in the Fenway and frankly I am shocked. With all due respect, we are residents of an inner-city neighborhood and noise levels are expected to be high.  That said, pyrotechnics and anything having to do with those should be taken very seriously.”

Charles Ferrara said that the “model of a once a year hearing…is insufficient and not a good model to represent what we should presume is good intent on both sides of the argument. A neighborhood agreement would be an objective, mutually beneficial agreement” that would “make sure that best interests of all stakeholders are honored in a fair and reasonable way as much as possible.”

Joyce said that while “I do appreciate these comments, it’s not my role to work on a neighborhood agreement.”

Others, like Pam Beale of the Kenmore Association, Martha Sheridan, President and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the owner of Audubon Circle Restaurant, spoke in support of the proposed number of concerts.

No decision has been made yet regarding the number of approved concerts for this summer.

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