The following posts are going to be a summary of the recent trip Susie and I took to Boston for our anniversary. I would have done this in real time, but the wireless connection in the hotel was kinda slow and more importantly, I was dog tired because in typical McKenna fashion, we squeezed every ounce of the city we were visiting into our allotted time. This is not meant to be an exact description of everything that we did, but rather a reflection on what struck me most during the day. Catch up on previous posts here: Boston Day 1: Faith, Boston Day 2: Rejection, Boston Day 3: Old Ironsides
When we first planned our Boston trip, the last day was intended to basically be a day to rest and sleep in, have a nice brunch and then fly on home. But in true Susie and Mike fashion, we ended up squeezing one more sightseeing destination into that last moment. Which is how we ended up waking up at the crack of dawn to wait in line for a tour of Fenway Park.
On my first trip to Boston back in May, I took in my first game at Fenway.
At the time, I planned on doing a comparison to my favorite old ballpark, Wrigley Field. But time flew by and that blog post never came together and I thought that the time for that had passed me by. But with this last minute tour of Fenway Park as we were leaving Boston, fate (and my wife) handed me a second chance to compare this two Grand Old Dames of Major League Baseball.
Game Day Atmosphere/Surrounding Area
Having never been to Fenway before, I had always assumed that because it was old, it was nestled into a neighborhood just like Wrigley. However, this is only sort of true. While Wrigley Field is truly a part of the neighborhood with apartments and local establishment butting right up against it, Fenway still had a buffer zone of non-local restaurants and team owned merchandise stores that eliminated the neighborhood feel.
What was interesting is that there were a great deal of people walking to the game from the city itself. The stadium is about a mile away from where a lot of the major hotels are, and every few blocks the stream of fans headed towards the stadium would get larger and larger. It was a pretty cool thing to be a part of. Boston is a very walkable city and this was proof of that. I could never see fans being able to do that in Chicago. But in the end, I give the advantage to Wrigley.
Inside the Stadium
I was floored when I walked into Fenway Park. I was expecting old, cramped and tiny concourses like at Wrigley. I don’t know if was fooled by the so called “Big Concourse” when I first entered the stadium, which I believe has been added with the recent renovations, or if it has always been this way. Either way, all of the concourses were wide, bright and sparkling clean. I felt like I was walking inside
Conseco Bankers Life Fieldhouse or the United Center. I couldn’t believe it. There is no comparing to Wrigley’s dark, cramped concourses which reflect the park’s actual age. Score one for Fenway.
I’m not going to lie. Part of my enjoyment of going to a baseball game is getting to eat a bunch of junk food. So it is only natural that the food at each ballpark is going to take a prominent role in my comparison. The first benefit for Wrigley is that for the first half hour, all food is 25% off at the concession stands. While I did not arrive early enough to have taken advantage of that at Fenway, I also did not find any evidence that they have a similar discount. (Wrigley has signs all over that notifies fans of this.) My guess is that this is not something available at Fenway.
However, cheap food does not always make good food. On the whole, I like the food at Wrigley. The burgers are tasty, the pizza is pretty good, the nachos are excellent and have a generous amount of cheese and jalapeños and the chocolate malt cup (complete with wooden spoon!) is a must have item, no matter what the temperature outside.
However, not everything is rosy in Wrigley food land. The variety leaves a little to be desired (and this was before they stopped carrying my beloved pizza puffs!) This comes in to focus even more when I started comparing to Fenway Park. I was impressed by the wide variety of items available to eat. From the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, to giant burritos and barbecue there seemed to be no end to the options available to me. I must have wandered back and forth across the Big Concourse two or three times because I could not decide what to eat. It was then that I came across one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is a hot food vending machine. Unfortunately, it was almost game time and I needed to get back to my seat so I could get ready to keep score, so I did not have enough time to fully analyze exactly what this machine had to offer. But what I do know for sure is that the machine offers onion rings and the food is kosher. I have no idea if the food is any good, or how it works exactly. (Is there a mini-deep fryer in there? Does a robotic arm do everything or does it come with mini-Oomba Loompas? I need to know!)
Besides the wide variety, Fenway Park also offered a very unique food service concept. Most of the food lines were self-serve. You just gathered your selections off of the rack, warmer or tray and turned around to check out. I decided on my concession stand of choice about 25 minutes before the first pitch of a sold out game. Despite this fact, there was no line to get food. I was extremely impressed. For a minute. The problem was that when I went to get my selection (the double cheeseburger because strangely, there was no single burger option) there were no burgers available. So I waited. And waited. And waited a lot longer. The workers kept reassuring me that the burgers were coming. And yet it took a good 15 minutes for them to finally arrive. Not sure why you have freed up all of those food service workers if they still aren’t going to get the food out efficiently. The food itself was tasty, but this improbable long wait for a simple food item tips the scales in favor of Wrigley.
Seating/Inside Stadium Ambiance
When I first decided that I was going to try to catch a game at Fenway in Boston, my immediate thought was “Where are the bad seats, so I don’t buy tickets there.” This comes from my experiences at Wrigley. From the 20 plus games I have seen there in my life time, I have come to learn that the only bad seats are on the main level, underneath the upper deck. And to be honest, unless you are stuck behind a pole or something, they really aren’t that bad. But by having a covering over your head, you definitely miss out on the full Wrigley experience.
When I first arrived in my seats at Fenway, I was impressed by how nice they were and how well I had chosen seats.
Although I quickly found a major problem with our seats. As evidenced by the gentleman in the blue sweatshirt, our view of the was often blocked by people walking up and down the aisle., or those fans who would just stop to admire the view. Not sure if we were just in a bad location, or if it was just bad design. I remember a similar thing happening at Great American Ballpark. It’s like the rows weren’t elevated enough.
Another small problem with Fenway is that it has a bunch of seats that don’t actually face the action. Apparently fans have to sort of contort their body to actually be able to view the field appropriately. This certainly seemed to be the case for a great deal of seats in centerfield as well as in the main section.
The final big difference between Wrigley and Fenway is the amount of advertising visible and the enormous video boards.
To be honest, I was surprised at how much these things did not bother me. They actually did not take away from the beauty and prestige of Fenway in the least. I am sure that at some point, more of this is coming to Wrigley as well. But at least it appears that it might not be as bad as I once thought it might. In the end, Fenway has too many bad seats (they still have a decent portion of original 1912 seats in the park because if they remove them they have to replace them with larger seats and they can’t afford to lose more seating capacity!) giving another advantage to Wrigley.
The most famous and unique feature of Fenway is the Green Monster.
When you first step into the stadium and feast your eyes upon it, it is rather impressive. But after awhile, it is just another thing that blends into the background. Maybe this is because it now has a handful of advertisements on it or because people now can sit atop the wall.
In the end, it is just a big wall. And while it probably give the home team an advantage because opposing players aren’t sure how balls are going to play off of it, I’m not sure it is more formidable that the ivy at Wrigley, which has not only been known to lead to its share of funny bounces but it has also led to the disappearance of a few balls as well as some hopes and dreams. Plus, how awesome was it to see red ivy during playoff games in 2003? Call me back when the Green Monster can change colors.
Not only that, but Wrigley has another unique feature to break the tie, which doesn’t even need words to describe its fabulocity.
I suppose that you can accuse me of being a homer, but in the end I think that Wrigley still is a far superior ballpark to Fenway. Sure she is not perfect, but she is still a Grand Old Dame and even though she is pushing 100, she still turns a few heads. Now if we could just get a few more wins.