Its official name is JetBlue Park at Fenway South, and one look at the new spring training home of the Boston Red Sox tells you that the emphasis is on Fenway Park.
There’s the 37-foot high Green Monster in left field, complete with Monster Seats, the Triangle in front of the 420-foot mark in center, and Pesky’s Pole 302 feet down the right field line. Yes, the quirky dimensions and many other features are replicas of the Red Sox historic home, Fenway Park in Boston, which turns 100 years old in April 2012.
While the dimensions and the geometry of JetBlue Park are the same, there are also some advantageous differences. There are no poles creating obstructed views, no wooden seats designed for 1912-sized patrons, and no turning your head to see the batter from right field seats. The $78 million, 10,800-capacity ballpark in Fort Myers, FL, which will host its first games this weekend, has the real Fenway’s feel, but with state-of-the-art amenities.
Like its historic forerunner, JetBlue Park also has some of the most sought-after tickets in baseball. Most spring training games there are either sold out or have only scattered single seats available through the team. Tickets face values range from $5 for lawn seats above the bullpens in right field, to $46 for home plate box seats.
On the secondary market, the average ticket price of $102.01, according to search site TiqIQ.com, is by far the highest for spring training games. The next highest average is the San Francisco Giants’ $91.20 for their games in Scottsdale, AZ. The next most expensive Florida spring training site is the $67 average for Atlanta Braves games at Disney’s Champions Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
TiqIQ spokesman Chris Matcovich told TicketNews that Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies games in Florida, along with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Giants games in Arizona, have been his site’s most popular spring training tickets.
Boston-based ticket broker Jim Holzman, owner of Ace Ticket, told TicketNews that “sales and interest have been very high” for JetBlue Park’s inaugural schedule.
“A lot of snowbirds want to get down there and take a look at it,” said Holzman, whose company has a partnership with the team as its official ticket reseller. “I think it’s nice that you’ve got the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park to tie into it, too. It’s a replica Fenway, but it is also a cutting-edge, well-designed facility.”
The Red Sox have made their spring training home in Fort Myers at City of Palms Park since moving there from Winter Haven, FL, in 1992. After the Red Sox made overtures about relocating their camp to Sarasota, FL, in 2008, Lee County, FL, officials and the team reached an agreement in November 2008 to remain in Fort Myers and plans for a new park began. The Red Sox agreed to a naming rights deal with JetBlue Airways last March 2011.
JetBlue Park is just six miles from the Minnesota Twins’ spring training home, Hammond Stadium, in Fort Myers. The new park is also the centerpiece of a 106-acre Player Development Complex, which has six adjoining baseball fields and will be a year-round training facility for the Red Sox and their minor league affiliates.
Adding to the Fenway experience is that Fenway South Road, at the front of the new park, will be closed off to vehicle traffic on game days in an effort to recreate the street fair feel of Yawkey Way, which is in front of Fenway Park. The turnstiles, entertainment and some concessions will be on the street as they are in Boston.
JetBlue Park’s hand-operated scoreboard in left field is no replica. It’s a restored version of the actual scoreboard that was used on Fenway’s Green Monster until the board was replaced in 2002.
The new facility is also helping to take take Red Sox’s fans focus off of a disappointing finish to the 2011 season, which ended with a historic September collapse that caused the Sox to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. That led to manager Terry Francona being replaced by Bobby Valentine and hastened the exit of general manager Theo Epstein, who became the Chicago Cubs‘ team president.
“Growing up here, we were always coming off a disappointment,” Holzman said. Red Sox’s World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 helped to change that thinking.
Holzman estimates that about 65 percent of his ticket purchasers for spring training games are current Ace Ticket clients and buyers from New England and 35 percent are from the Florida area.
“So, like Fenway, the park becomes the attraction,” he said. “The fan experience is always great at spring training. Players are more cordial. It’s a relaxed atmosphere. You combine that with a new park and you’ve got a formula for success.”