BOSTON -- Two weeks away from turning 102 years old, Fenway Park will look to inject its fair share of youth for the 2014 season.
On Wednesday, the Boston Red Sox announced a series of enhancements to their storied ballpark this season that are marketed toward increasing attendance and engagement among younger fans. The changes include discounted tickets for students, a new social media wall and more menu options throughout the park.
"We thought it was important to make sure that we make Fenway Park as accessible as possible to that next generation of fans, certainly high school students and college students," Red Sox executive vice president and chief operating officer Sam Kennedy said.
The team hopes to achieve this by lowering the price of standing room tickets to a ballpark-low $9 for high school and college students throughout the season. Fenway will also feature six student-themed home games during April and May priced at $20 a seat. The themed games kick off with Toga Night on April 8 against the Texas Rangers.
In addition, the Red Sox will introduce a social media wall displaying content from Instagram and Twitter users at the park. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Red Sox have made several technological improvements to Fenway, including the installation of three high definition video boards and cellphone charging stations at five locations throughout the park.
New food options will be available this season, with popular restaurant Tasty Burger serving hamburgers and shakes on the Third Base Deck's lower level. Other changes include an expansion of the Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck menu, KIND bars being sold throughout the park, a vegetarian sandwich debuting in the Big Concourse and a new carving station serving hand-carved sandwiches in the Right Field Concourse.
Kennedy noted the Red Sox will look to increase attendance in April and May with a series of ballpark promotions, most notably the long-awaited return of player bobblehead nights to Fenway Park. All fans in attendance Monday will receive a David Ortiz bobblehead and fans in attendance April 30 will receive a Dustin Pedroia bobblehead. The events are the team's first such promotion since hosting a Nomar Garciaparra Bobblehead Night in 2002.
The Red Sox also announced a multiyear partnership with marketing and consultant company Sapient in an effort to improve the team's digital connection with fans. Upon signing Miami Heat star LeBron James as a client in April 2012, Sapient connected with the John Henry and Tom Werner-owned group Fenway Sports Management, which Sapient chief marketing officer Bill Kanarick described as the reason the Boston-based company's partnership with the Red Sox came together.
"The younger fan certainly has a different experience expectation than a more mature fan is likely to have," Kanarick said. "You want ideally for that experience to be a curated experience offered by the team or the league so it becomes complementary to the on-the-field action as opposed to a distraction from the on-the-field action. That's the challenge and of course the opportunity in front of us."
The Red Sox took a shot at enhancing the fan experience earlier this spring by having JetBlue Park public address announcer Ted Fitzgeorge recite the count following each pitch during the team's March 11 spring training game against the Miami Marlins. Although the game was only a one-game trial (and drew criticism from that day's starting pitcher John Lackey), the team will look to continue to think outside the box for ways to attract younger fans moving forward.
"If you don't capture fans at a young age and help them fall in love with baseball, you're not doing your job," Kennedy said. "The health of professional sports in general really depends on that next generation and we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to make Fenway Park accessible and make sure fans in that younger generation have a way to connect with the Red Sox."