Metro, Column, Boston

‘Big Air’ Event Should Stay Far Away From Fenway Park This Winter

If anyone read my column from last spring you’d know that there are two things I love most in this world: the Boston Red Sox and traditions.

So, when browsing through BostInno a few nights ago, I naturally gravitated toward this story: “Fenway’s ‘Big Air’ Will Tower Over the Historic Ballpark: everyone is predictably stoked.” Are Boston traditionalists really excited about a second monstrosity—this one a little less green—entering America’s most beloved ballpark?

A 140-foot tall ski and snowboard jump will tower over even the highest of the iconic ballpark lights in the park, with a 38-degree downward angle toward the field. According to diagrams, the slope will extend from home plate, cutting across the diagonal of the field, ending at the right field bullpen. The slope is so high, an elevator is being installed to take jumpers up to the top. Even from the diagram, the thing looks enormous, so I can only imagine what it will actually be like when the slope takes the field in mid-February.

The jump is not open to the public, but rather will be classified as an official sanctioned United States Grand Prix event by the International Ski Federation.

What I’m not stoked about is this seemingly innovative marketing tool that the officials at Fenway are trying to implement to utilize the space during the off-season.

It just seems like a huge contradiction: one of the most character-rich, historical buildings in one of the oldest cities in the U.S. is hosting a top-of-the-line, mechanically driven and formulated “mountain.” It seems that the natural has been exchanged for the exciting, the fantastical, change of big-air sports.

Even more, it seems that Fenway is trying to reconcile the boring season it just experienced in 2015. In what is notoriously a slow sport, officials at Fenway seem to be trying to revive its lackluster efforts in being a ballpark for something more exciting.

I’m against this event for two reasons: First, it taints the old-school fashion and heritage that is Fenway Park. The bleacher seats that are so close together, the all-green panels that line the ceiling, the red-brick details on the walls—it all contributes and remains the original from Fenway’s construction in 1912. It is hard to put into words the charm that exuberates from Fenway Park making you feel at home and like you’re apart of a tradition that took decades to create.

Second, it seems like Fenway is attempting to compete with the likes of its brother-ballparks: newly renovated stadiums like Citi Field or Yankee Stadium. If there was any talk of building a new baseball stadium in Boston, the idea would be shut down faster than Will Hunting could solve a math problem. Maybe Fenway is compensating for its lack of the new and the flashy. But is this the answer?

I understand why Fenway feels the need to revitalize its venue, especially after this past season. But why not substitute this free space with more traditional events? In past years, officials have utilized the field with the likes of Zac Brown, Billy Joel, and Jimmy Buffett—some epitomes of timeless classics. It brings people together with the simplicity of sharing in the musical talents of a commonly-loved band.

“Big Air” will probably be a hit—there’s no denying that seeing a ski jump in the middle of Fenway Park is cool and different, and people will want to see it. But that doesn’t mean that Fenway should abandon its true purpose and ignore its inherent tradition.

Change is inevitable, and in a generation fueled by the latest and greatest technologies, it can be hard to make the case that something like this is bad or unnecessary, because for skiers and snowboarders that will participate, it’s needed. There is, however, a time and a place for innovation. And sometimes, nothing beats a classic—listening to Frank Sinatra on a record player, or even picking up a paper to read the news (Heights plug!) Why not move Big Air to Citi Field, someplace more equipped with the technology and modern-feel that this kind of event will foster?

Maybe, before Fenway invests its money on an event like this, it should focus on its real purpose: being a ballpark, and a beloved one at that. Maybe a better alternative would be to build a dome over the park so that players can practice year-round, and goodness knows the Red Sox could use it. And maybe then, they would revitalize the once-fantastic team that wouldn’t need to supplement its dwindling game attendance and sales with big-time, modern sports. Sometimes, a classic needs to focus on being just that—a classic.

Featured Image by US Ski And Snowboard Association

September 30, 2015