23 March 2005

The Red Sox new home is... their old home?

Looks like John Henry, Tom Werner, and company have come to their senses and are going to keep the Red Sox at Fenway for the forseeable future. Thankfully they didn't go forward with the Fenway 2: Electric Boogaloo stadium concept pushed by previous owner John Harrington. They were able to get extra seats added in any remaining free space in the park and get permission from the city of Boston to close down Yawkey Way outside the park during games for added "concourse" space. This is certainly a welcome change from the trend of building new ballparks, but it's an anomaly, not the reversal of the trend.

So you're probably wondering, can the A's and the JPA do something like that at the Coliseum? The answer to that, sadly, is no. Or at least not as long as the Raiders stay there. The Coliseum was built as a multi-purpose facility, and while it was considered at one point one of the best venues in baseball (circa 1989) and it remains a decent, underrated venue, there's no retrofit that would really benefit the stadium at this point. The JPA has already added most of the amenities new stadiums have, such as luxury suites and club sections. Certain things such as the circular seating bowl won't get fixed without basically tearing it down and rebuilding it. Plus there's still the issue of Mt. Davis, the eastside seating section that seems to always threaten to engulf the outfield. It has 3 decks of suites and the vertigo-inducing upper deck is not a pleasurable baseball experience. I tend to be in agreement with many longtime fans in the idea that if all of the 1995 refurbishment except for Mt. Davis were built, the Coliseum would be more than passable for decades to come. It would have put it on par at least with the improvements made to Busch Stadium or Angel Stadium.

When the Haas family owned the team, they helped renovate the stadium to get it to ideal state it was in during the Bash Brothers era. Field dimensions were stabilized. The concourses got splashes of color, and the stadium itself received a more baseball-tinged identity. While the 1995 refurbishment gave the stadium the forest green seats and updated scoreboards, most of the baseball identity was stripped away. What replaced it were bizarre outfield dimensions, no more views of ice plant or the Oakland hills in the background, and a guarantee that the six weeks of the season or more would be played on chewed up, elephant-trodden sod and dirt.

Now here we are in 2005. What will the new ownership group propose? A now out-of-style retro facade, or a modern or even futuristic one? Restrained field layout or everything-but-the-kitchen sink? Distinctive or hodgepodge generic? My next post will cover those issues and others as I review my own Coliseum South proposal.