FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The new spring training home of the Boston Red Sox is now the jewel of the Grapefruit League.
The media was given its first look at JetBlue Park at Fenway South on Friday afternoon, and state-of-the-art facility is spectacular. Playing in a spring training facility that replicates the exact dimensions of Fenway Park (Green Monster and all) will give the Red Sox a competitive edge, not to mention a feeling that they’re at home.
“It’s sort of surreal,” Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy said. “You look at plans for three or four years and to see it actually happen is crazy. You look at a picture and to see it actually come to life is great. The happiest recipients are the baseball operations employees -- the players, the coaching staff -- it makes their life a lot easier and I think it will give a competitive advantage -- hopefully.”
Unlike City of Palms Park and the team’s former player development complex, this facility includes both the park and the training facilities in a single location.
Kennedy said his favorite aspect of the facility is when you stand behind home plate, you really feel like you’re at Fenway.
“Then you stand on the Monster, look out and you know you’re in Southwest Florida,” Kennedy said. “People from New England coming down here are going to be struck by how much it really feels like Fenway on the inside. Then, on the outside, of course, it’s completely different.”
Unlike the Fenway version, the Green Monster at JetBlue Park features seating built into the left-field wall and also atop the 37-foot structure. The seating area inside the wall is obviously set back from the facade, with a net in front of it. Any balls hit off the net (the equivalent of most wall balls at Fenway) will be in play.
The center-field triangle is the same as Fenway’s, both bullpens are in right-center field and the curvature of the right field line mimics Boston’s ballyard.
Behind closed doors, the complex is equally impressive.
There are three clubhouses. The Red Sox have a spacious 50,000 square foot clubhouse, while the minor leaguers have their own locker room just down the hall. Then there’s the visitor’s clubhouse.
For all the focus on the players and the baseball operations folks, the fans will also benefit from the new park and adjoining facilities.
“Having the ability for the fans to see our minor league players and be so close, and to be able to walk up and get autographs, and just kind mull around is something we wanted to be able to achieve. We had that at the minor league complex, but to have everything together is a huge amenity for the fans.”
The facility is huge. There are approximately 9,900 fixed seats, eight private boxes and 378 Monster seats inside JetBlue Park. Another cool aspect is a video board in right-center field.
“We have more capacity so more people can enjoy spring training baseball,” Kennedy said.
Selling tickets has not been a problem for the Red Sox. In fact, their Grapefruit League season is sold out.
“The resiliency of our fans is incredible,” Kennedy said. “They’re buying tickets at the same pace as they did last year at Fenway, and at a faster pace down here than they ever have before. Given what happened in September last year, and the way we fell short of our goal, we have to play baseball in October and that’s our goal every year. Given the fact we didn’t, the fans are still buying tickets at the same clip is just incredible. Our fans are incredible. We’re lucky and we don’t take that for granted.”
Back in New England, the Red Sox recently completed their 10-year renovation project of Fenway Park and will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the storied ballpark this season.
One’s old and one’s new, but neither one is going anywhere any time soon.
“As long as John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino own the team I know we’ll be at Fenway Park,” Kennedy said. “The ballpark will be around for our generation of kids, so that’s a good thing for all of Red Sox Nation. It will be home to the Red Sox for the foreseeable future.”