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Thursday, February 14, 2013
Fenway sellout streak likely to end

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox's record 793-game sellout streak at Fenway Park likely will come to an end in April, team president Larry Lucchino predicted Thursday.

"It's going to rest in peace sometime in April, I suspect," Lucchino said of the streak, which began in 2003 and is the longest in U.S. pro sports history. "That's not such a terrible thing. It's an extraordinary accomplishment."

Ticket sales for the 2013 season are down; Lucchino called it the most challenging year in this ownership's tenure in Boston. The team is expecting the home opener on April 8 to be sold out, but the streak could end as early as April 10, the second home game of the season.

"Some people have been guessing about it," Lucchino said. "Historically, for all of baseball, the second game of the season has been the toughest game to sell tickets for, so it could be as early as that. I have no doubt Opening Day will be a sellout.

"Of course, April weather doesn't help a lot. We have a lot of home games in April, and it could be as early as the second, but I do expect it to be in that first or second week."

The nearly 10-year-old streak began on May 15, 2003, and stretched through the end of the 2012 season, when the Red Sox finished with a home attendance figure of 3,043,003. The Red Sox broke the record for consecutive regular-season sellouts this past June, surpassing the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers mark of 744.

There have been questions about the authenticity of the record, and whether Fenway Park was truly sold out on a nightly basis last season or whether the streak would be more accurately dubbed a distribution streak.

Lucchino strongly defended the streak, saying the team has not "cooked the books" to make sure the run continued.

"I know there's been a battle of definitions going on out there," Lucchino said. "I'll just say a couple of things about it -- we took the definition that was in place when we got here. We didn't gerrymander a new definition of what a sellout was. We took the definition that was in place, and had been in place for 10, 20 years before us and was commonly used by many clubs in baseball.

"Then there's a dictionary, literal definition that some have taken, but I would point you to one fact: Over the last 11 years, and I checked on this this morning in anticipation that question might come up, we have sold roughly 36,200 tickets [per game] and our capacity over that course of time has changed with the addition of different parts of the ballpark."

Lucchino admitted there has been a reduction in ticket revenue this offseason, but believes if there's a winning product on the field, fans will continue to flock to Fenway.

"If we have the kind of successful franchise, the successful team that we think we'll have, people will jump back into the ballpark -- albeit a later time in the season than they have historically," he said. "I don't want to predict too much of a downturn yet, but I do know it's a possibility. I still think we will generate, from a lot of sources, some that are occasionally decried by members of the media will still be substantial."

Since last season, there's been speculation the Red Sox, or at least part of the franchise, was for sale. Time and again, principal owner John Henry and Lucchino have denied that claim, which the team president did again Thursday.

"We tried to say to those who asked that it was a false rumor," Lucchino said. "We didn't know where it came from, but if it's repeated a couple of times, it tends to gain a little credence, perhaps, but it has never been a consideration. I've never been in a meeting where anyone discussed the idea of us selling this team."