Photo by werkunz, CC BYThe fact that Fenway Park is hallowed ground for Red Sox fans and the broader legion of baseball’s faithful is well established. In 2012, the timeless stadium was even named to the US National Register of Historic Places in commemoration of its 100th anniversary. Fenway also thrives as a pilgrimage for many baseball purists who seek an old-school, authentic ballpark experience, straight out of the game’s golden eras.
But the amenities fans expected when Fenway opened in 1912 would not quite pass muster today. In recent years, to remain a contemporary draw, a few precise technological initiatives have been implemented to transform the home of the Green Monster—but you probably couldn’t spot them with the naked eye.
And that’s exactly how the Red Sox organization wants it. Fenway is a model of preservation, and seamlessly blending devices into the ballpark’s legendary atmosphere is central to the design of any technological updates there.
A significant force driving Fenway’s modern technology is the effort to have fans engage with the ballgame-going experience. Like most professional sports franchises, the Red Sox encourage fans to share their time at Fenway with social media posts, photos, and stories. Many people also use the MLB Ballpark mobile app while attending the game to check in or access in-game content.
Keeping folks connected is tacitly critical to baseball’s survival. The core demographic watching America’s pastime is aging. Consequently, baseball must compete with entertainment alternatives—like eSports—for the attention of millennials and younger people. Although eSports have a brief history, the convenience and popularity of video game streaming challenges older sports to digitally engage fans in new ways.
At Fenway, this means striking a strategic balance between modern communications and the stadium’s storied past.
Enabling digital fan engagement at Fenway has resulted in the installation of high-speed internet and a distributed antenna system from Verizon Wireless to handle thousands of simultaneously-connected smartphones.
Due to Fenway’s historical designations, officials worked with the Boston Landmarks Commission, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and the National Park Service in planning the wireless infrastructure deployment. Every antenna installation was photo simulated and presented with an installation proposal in order to receive approval from the historical oversight organizations.
The realized solution is a network of deftly-hidden or disguised components. Wiring was run under the field while Wi-Fi access points were either hidden or painted a camouflaging Fenway green and attached to sponsor signage.
Fenway’s enhanced technology solutions also allow for data collection, which can be used to personalize the fan experience. The Red Sox organization can tailor content to individuals by analyzing their past behavior and preferences at the ballpark.
The result of this nearly invisible tech facelift is that it comfortably provides fans with the best of the old and the new. Fenway hasn’t lost an ounce of its historic beauty and old school baseball charm. Meanwhile, fans get to enjoy the connectivity and interactive experience that are par for the course at Major League Baseball’s more recently-constructed venues. The marriage of baseball legacy and technology is winning in Boston, and the Red Sox can expect to fill the seats at Fenway well into the future.