BOSTON (AP) – Tucked under center field seats in Fenway Park, down a flight of stairs from Lansdowne Street in an area that was previously used as the visiting team’s batting cage, there’s a sports bar being prepared to reopen since the closure of the coronavirus.
Largely windowless and decorated with sepia photographs hanging on dark wood walls, the main source of light is sunlight streaming through a thick metal screen that reveals the true treasure of the location: a view of the countryside From the Boston Red Sox, from Green Monster to Pesky Pole, that could make the Bleacher Bar one of the few places to see a major league game in person this season.
“It is one of a kind. It really is, “said Joe Hicks, who runs the restaurant and three others in the area.” Kids and families, they get excited when they come in here and they see how cool this is. People come in and are naturally happy.
“Being able to see inside the park, there is nothing better than that.”
Major League Baseball suspended spring training on March 12, and the season it was scheduled to open on March 26 never did. Last week, the players and owners reached an agreement to play a shortened 60-game season that would begin on July 23 or 24 at local teams’ ballparks.
But they are not ready to fill the seats with tens of thousands of fans yet.
Instead, those who expect to see a game in person may have to settle for places like the Bleacher Bar, the Rogers Center Hotel, or the rooftops of Wrigley, pressing their faces to the windows or squinting near the Knothole Gangs of yesteryear.
The Roberto Clemente Bridge offers a glimpse of PNC Park, and a hotel in Baltimore could offer country-view rooms at Camden Yards.
“There is some irony in the fact that the kind of social areas that we have created in baseball parks may end up being the key to the social detachment that may be necessary when we look back at the sport,” said Janet Marie Smith, baseball architect. . said. “I think there is something, yes, a kind of cruel irony in that.”
Smith, who helped build the paradigm-shifting Camden Yards and worked on renovations for Dodger Stadium and Fenway, said stadium designers have been trying to find new ways to connect with their urban environment after returning from the suburbs in the decade. from 1990.
The result: a picnic area in San Diego, a boardwalk in San Francisco, a street plaza in Baltimore, a nightclub in Miami.
And now those new knots could be a foot in the door for fans if teams and government officials consider them safe to open before the actual seats.
“We are seeing that the combination of uses bodes well for many situations,” said Smith. “We weren’t looking for this one, for sure. But it does allow you to go back on tiptoe and have a lighter touch than the traditional way of thinking in a stadium or stadium with all seats fixed. “
Most teams contacted by The Associated Press last week said they were following instructions from local officials on whether fans could watch games from these areas. In many states, a key distinction is whether they are designed for ticketed or non-turnstile fans; In Massachusetts, for example, the Bleacher Bar may reopen as a restaurant, even while Fenway and other large stadiums remain closed.
The Toronto Marriott City Center is waiting for news from the Blue Jays about whether it can rent the 70 rooms with perfect views of the countryside, general manager Anup Israni said. (As of Friday, the hotel had “ballpark view” rooms available to reserve from late July through August.)
A spokesman for the Chicago Cubs said it has not been decided whether the rooftops along Waveland and Sheffield avenues will be open.
The San Francisco Portwalk, a promenade along McCovey Cove that overlooks Oracle Park, will remain closed, a spokeswoman for the Giants said. Kayakers still wait to paddle, struggling for splashes.
Clevelander Marlins Park, a nightclub with a pool beyond the fence on left field in Miami, also won’t open, the team said. The San Diego Padres said the Park in the Park, a grassy area with a ticket beyond the center field fence, will be closed during the regular season; However, it will be open for the restart of spring training, with fans necessary for social distance.
Eutaw Street, which extends beyond the right field wall in Baltimore, helped popularize the trend toward seatless observation areas. On game days, it’s usually packed with fans looking for home runs or buying sandwiches at Boog’s BBQ.
But it is inside the gates of Camden Yards, and will remain closed, the team said. It was also off limits when the Orioles played a fanless game in 2015 due to protests over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, until now, the only major league game played without fans at the stadium.
Some resourceful Orioles fans watched that game huddle on the balconies of the Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor, which offers a mostly unobstructed but unobstructed view of the field. (For now, the hotel is closed due to COVID-19 and won’t take reservations until July 14 at the earliest, a Hilton Hotels spokesperson said.)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has ruled out fans in Fenway seats until at least August.
“I only anticipate that it will be extremely strange when we start playing Major League Baseball games without fans, as it is a strange environment,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said this week.
“I think it is incredibly important that we start, when it’s safe, to try to regain a certain sense of normalcy,” he said. “For me, that has always been to baseball games. I think our fans want that and ultimately our players want that. “
In Massachusetts, restaurants such as the Bleacher Bar can open with limited capacity beginning June 30. Last week, the tables had already been rearranged to accommodate social distancing requirements; The three tables with the best view of the field were now two.
Hicks, the chief operating officer of the Bleacher Bar, was speaking to a journalist when a mother and her two children poked their heads out to check the location. Your brief on-screen glance will be your only chance to see the field before you return home to Naples, Florida.
“We’re actually big fans of the Yankees, but we always wanted to see Fenway Park because it’s the oldest park, it’s like the most legendary park in the world,” said Sebastian Bustamante, 17.
“The Yankees were supposed to do good things this year, so I was looking forward to that,” he said. Other than that, I love watching baseball. It won’t be the same not seeing him in person, but hopefully we can see some games on TV. “
AP Sports writers David Ginsburg in Baltimore, Bernie Wilson in San Diego, Andrew Seligman in Chicago, Steven Wine in Miami, Janie McCauley in San Francisco, and freelance Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this story.