(This was originally posted to Fire Brand of the AL in 2007)
In order to help those who attend games at Fenway Park (and even that requires a fair bit of luck), I write these guides to hopefully inform both the novice making his or her first trip, and also provide a few new pieces of advice to the veteran. In the first installment, Seating.
Obviously, the first (and most important) hurdle is finding seating at all. Having sold out several hundred games in a row, it’s not easy to get into the park, let alone sit in a good section. Going into the on-sale date, it’s good to have a proper idea of both dates you would optimally like to have, and the areas of the park where you would be happiest.
The single most important rule: be flexible. If you absolutely must have a certain section on a certain date, you are going to be hard pressed to make it happen. I only manage to attend so many games because I will take any single ticket that pops onto redsox.com. Fortunately, the vast majority of Red Sox fans you’ll meet are nice, knowledgeable, and love the game, making Fenway a beautiful place to go it alone. I’ve had some of my favorite games just chatting with people around me, which varied from a native of Pittsburgh getting standing room only, to a grizzled old Sox fan commenting on Delcarmen’s release point.
Now, for the seating. My seating sweet spot are sections 32/33 in the left field corner. These are perfect for families, because they are the no alcohol section, and they provide a great view of the field (without staring into the sun or having to twist your neck) at $18 less than the grandstand. 33 has plastic seats (as there is no roof covering this section), which are larger and more comfortable than their wooden counterparts. Its location provides both excellent access to food and the exits, meaning you won’t get stuck for 20 minutes just trying to leave the park. Also, you have the added bonus of being directly next to the Monster, which towers over both sections.
Secondly, I go for any grandstands between 15 and 27. While they are more expensive, they are under cover and provide great views of the infield. Obviously poles are a consideration, but it’s always a balancing act missing those, and it‘s excellent having shade and protection from the elements above. Grandstands apart from these are a crapshoot, with relatively sizable negatives. GS 28-31 are not appreciably better than 32/33, while being much more expensive. Being under cover isn’t much of an issue in 33, which is usually in the shade for all night games. Anything less than 15 will require twisting your neck harshly, and will also mean staring into the setting sun for the first 2 or 3 innings.
If either of these options are unavailable, I go for the cheapest ticket possible. In the past 2 seasons, I must’ve had 6 single tickets in the worst possible locations (sections 3-10) where I didn’t even visit my actual seat. In this case, I show up a half hour before game time to stake out a spot in Standing Room Only behind the plate, a spot so good you can clearly see the movement and release point for each pitch. [note: it is now harder as of 2010 to do SRO without an SRO ticket behind the plate, as ushers will check]
Here’s my section-by-section rating for Fenway Park. For each, I’ll give two star ratings (out of 5): one from a value standpoint, and the other from a money-is-no-object standpoint. I’ll also give pros and cons for each section. I will denote each section by the grandstand numbers, as if I took slices from the dead-center of Fenway outwards. Thus, for example, section 21 would include box 131 and 132, along with the field boxes in front. Since I’m approaching this from the POV of a recent college graduate without a lot of money, I’m trying to minimize cost as much as possible, and so Pavilion Box and Field Box will not be too specifically mentioned.
Sections 1-3: *** 1/2 / **
Pros: Seats face home plate, covered by roof unlike nearby bleachers, no poles obstructing the battery, many concessions directly downstairs.
Cons: no view of the Monster, deep right field means long distance from field, night games involve staring into the setting sun, more expensive but similar to bleacher seats.
Sections 4-8: * / *
Pros: You’re in Fenway Park, excellent view of the Monster, relatively cheap.
Cons: You’ll have to twist your neck to see anything on the field while also staring into the sun, limited concessions and egress, poles frequently block your view, view is blocked by both adjacent fans and anyone in the aisles, far from field, bad bathroom options.
Sections 9-10: *** / **
Pros: Still a great view of the Monster while also pretty cheap, 9 has very few obstructions, closer to the field without having to turn your neck too much.
Cons: You do still have to twist your neck a little, limited concessions exits and bathrooms, occasional sightline issues with adjacent fans (especially in the field boxes)
Sections 11-27: *** / ****1/2 on edges, ****/***** behind the plate
Pros: directly on top of the action, great concessions bathrooms and exit options, mostly wonderful sightlines.
Cons: More expensive.
Sections 28-31: **½ / ****
Pros: No dramatic difference between the edges of the prior section, still very good concessions and bathroom options, good sightlines orientation and proximity.
Cons: Just as expensive, but farther away from the plate, no easy exits without walking.
Section 32: ***** / ***½
Pros: 1/3rd less than the grandstand for practically the same experience, seats orientated towards the infield, great access to concessions, bathrooms and exits, virtually no obstructions, wonderfully close to the Monster, 1 row wins a $25 CVS gift card each game, under the roof, no alcohol.
Cons: No alcohol, Farther away from the action, same old wooden seats, occasional obstructions.
Section 33: ***** / *** ½
33 is the same as 32, except there is no roof, the seats are larger and made of plastic, you are slightly farther from the action, and there is a greater chance of being blocked by the section 32 post.
Obviously I have left out several parts of the park, largely because of my limited experience from those locations. I haven’t sat in the bleachers for years (back when they were walled off from the rest of the park), and my first Pavilion Box seats are for Futures at Fenway next Saturday. From my one Monster seat experience, however, I couldn’t possibly recommend those seats enough. If you can manage to win the special seating lottery, then actually afford the $140 tickets, it’s an experience you will never forget.
I’ll continue the series with a look at Fenway concessions (and where to eat outside the park), transportation to and from the park (including where to park without second mortgages), and my own typical Fenway routine, maximizing what I’ve learned over my years.