Boston College’s campus in Chestnut Hill is but a short ride on the Green Line to Fenway Park. But when the Eagles face Notre Dame next year in the first football game to be played in the historic ballpark in 47 years, BC will be treated as the visitor.
And yes, even though it’s 778 miles from South Bend, Ind., to Kenmore Square, the Fighting Irish will get all the perks of the home team.
Which means Notre Dame will get the vast bulk of the ticket allotment in the small park, creating what many anticipate will be a mad scramble among locals for what is expected to be BC’s share of fewer than 5,000 seats. And just to make things worse, Notre Dame will get to set the face value prices.
“It may even be the toughest ticket that I’ve ever had to deal with in my 25 years here,’’ said Jim O’Neill, BC’s associate athletic director for ticket operations. “I may even have to tell my own dad I don’t have a ticket for him.’’
Some are predicting that the game, set for Nov. 21, 2015, could fetch a premium price of $300 for what will be a rare football game at Fenway. The Boston Patriots of the American Football League were the last football team to call Fenway Park home, playing their final game in the Fens Dec. 1, 1968 before relocating to BC’s Alumni Stadium in 1969.
Notre Dame started what is called the “Shamrock Series” in 2009, taking one of its home games off-campus to neutral sites in an attempt to bring Fighting Irish football to the masses. The series, in which Notre Dame has always been designated the home team, has taken the team to the Southwest (San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth), the Midwest (Chicago, Indianapolis), and the East (Landover, Md., New York), and Fenway Park, which, by far, will be the smallest venue to date.
Notre Dame Stadium has a capacity of 80,750, but Fenway Park has only 37,495 fixed seats, plus 1,700 standing room tickets, for a total capacity of 39,195 for baseball.
“I think most people realize it’s Notre Dame’s home game and realize that tickets are going to be very difficult to access, particularly if you’re rooting for the visiting team,’’ said Brad Bates, BC’s director of athletics. “But the extent of that awareness isn’t that great yet.
BC’s ticket office has already fielded a number of inquiries from fans, but, O’Neill said, “I feel pretty safe in saying that people are going to have to have some sort of affiliation with Boston College to be able to get a ticket from us.
“Now what does that affiliation mean? Is it a season ticket-holder? Is it a donor to the program? An alumnus? A student? Those are all the different categories that factor into having an affiliation with Boston College — a corporate sponsor, a luxury box holder, those are different types of categories.’’
Barry Hynes, a 25-year BC football season ticket-holder and president of the school’s hockey booster organization (the Pike’s Peak Club), expressed more indifference than outrage about the prospect of fans getting shut out of the football game.
In fact, said Hynes, “the bloom was off the rose’’ on BC’s “Frozen Fenway” outdoor hockey games, as fans soured on the experience of fighting traffic, paying exorbitant parking fees, and sitting in bitterly cold conditions to attend.
“As much as I’m a supporter of BC, I don’t even think I want to go to the game because it’s at Fenway Park and it totally removes the whole collegiate atmosphere,’’ Hynes said. “I mean, if you’re going to bring your kids and they want to tailgate and throw a football, where are you going to do that? Kenmore Square?’’
“That part of it annoys me more, and the fact that it’s in our backyard and there’s only going to be 5,000 tickets and those will be allocated based on donors, as we always have. So, some of the older alums who may want to go to the game may be in jeopardy because they don’t give enough money to the school.’’
But Paul Criscione, president of BC’s Gridiron Club, said concerns about access to the Shamrock Series game amounted to little more than “a murmur of conversation’’ among his constituency of hard-core football supporters, which number almost 2,000.
“My guys are football guys,’’ Criscione said. “My guys are like me. They’re the guys that go to eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 games a year. My guys go home and away.’’
Criscione, though, acknowledged that the expected premium price might give some a reason to reconsider.
“Instead of bringing Aunt Sally and Uncle Harry and grandma and grandpa to the BC football game, it may be just me going,’’ Criscione said. “I’ll pony up the money for myself.’’
John Henry, the principal owner of the Fenway Sports Group, also owns The Boston Globe.
According to Atlantic Coast Conference associate commissioner Michael Strickland, the league entered into a standard game agreement with Notre Dame, a member of the conference in all sports except football, to provide visiting ACC teams an allotment of 5,000 tickets. That is part of the arrangement for Notre Dame to play an average of five games per year against ACC teams over the next 12 years.
“When our teams go to South Bend for a Notre Dame home game — or, in this case, Fenway Park, since it’s a Notre Dame home game — the ACC ticket policy will apply,’’ Strickland said. “We’ve actually revised it upward to give Notre Dame more tickets when they come to our places than your typical ACC game and vice versa, so it’s a total of 5,000 tickets that every ACC school will get when they go play at Notre Dame and then, likewise, Notre Dame will get 5,000 when they come to our places.’’
The date against BC came about when the Fighting Irish were able to accommodate only four ACC opponents in 2014 and wedged in six games for 2015 by making BC its Shamrock Series opponent. BC will host the Irish in 2017 at 44,500-seat Alumni Stadium, giving the Eagles a pair of games against Notre Dame in Boston over a span of three years.
“Notre Dame will be running the operation as if it were in South Bend,’’ Bates said. “But, like I said, I’d rather play Notre Dame in Boston than in South Bend.’’
While ticket prices for the game have yet to be determined, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said last December that fans of both teams could expect to play “a standard-setting ticket price.”
What that standard will be remains uncertain, but ticket prices will be affected by the fact that Notre Dame will reduce by more than half its ticket inventory for what would be a regular-season game at Notre Dame Stadium.
“That’s the reality of going to a smaller venue, a special venue, one of the great venues in America,’’ Swarbrick said. “To make the game work economically with that many seats, it will be a premium ticket price. I don’t know what it will be. Haven’t figured that out yet.’’
In similar situations in which demand has outstripped supply for big-ticket events (such as the NCAA Frozen Four and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament), BC has instituted a protocol for ticket distribution, said O’Neill, dividing the allotment among students, season ticket-holders, donors, the team, coaches, and athletic and university staff.
“Basically, you are going to have to be somebody who has some sort of affiliation with BC,’’ O’Neill said. “And in the past, season tickets and contribution levels have been a big part of that.’’
Typically, Notre Dame has offered Shamrock Series opponents a three-tiered ticket structure.
For last year’s game against Arizona State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sun Devil fans gobbled up 15,000 tickets ranging in price from $132 for club level to $88 for upper deck. For this year’s game vs. Purdue Sept. 13 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Notre Dame has set aside 10,000 tickets for Boilermaker fans ranging in price from $195 for club level to $80 “cheap seats.”
“I would assume with the whole supply/demand issue, [Notre Dame] would be able to do what it wants, for the most part, with pricing. I wouldn’t be shocked if those prices approached your BCS bowl or BCS national championship game prices, where some of those can go in the $300 range,’’ said Chris Peludat, Purdue’s assistant athletic director for ticketing and marketing.
“I don’t know if that will be all of the seats, but based on the size of the facility and the uniqueness of the facility, I would anticipate that there won’t be any $80 tickets at Fenway.’’
Ticket price structure
While ticket prices for the game have yet to be established, Notre Dame has been responsible for setting ticket prices and allotment size for its Shamrock Series games, typically offering a three-tiered price structure. Here’s a comparison of prices from last year’s game vs. Arsizona State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and this year’s Sept. 13 game vs. Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Arizona State vs. Notre Dame (Oct. 5, 2013, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas)
$132: Club level seats
$110: Lower bowl corner/end zone seats
$88: Upper deck seats
Purdue vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 13, 2014, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis)
$195: Club level seats
$125: Lower bowl level, between 20-25 yard line
$80: The cheap seats
The Shamrock Series
In 2009, Notre Dame started playing off-site home games to bring Fighting Irish football to the masses. Past and future dates for the Shamrock Series:
2009: Oct. 31, vs. Washington State at Alamodome, San Antonio (53,407 in attendance)
2010: Nov. 20, vs. Army at Yankee Stadium, New York (54,251)
2011: Nov. 12, vs. Maryland at FedEx Field, Landover, Md. (70,251)
2012: Oct. 6, vs. Miami at Soldier Field, Chicago (62,871)
2013: Oct. 5, vs. Arizona State at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas (66,690)
2014: Sept. 13, vs. Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis (capacity 67,000)
2015: Nov. 21, vs. Boston College at Fenway Park (capacity 39,195 for baseball)
2016: Nov. 12, vs. Army at Alamodome (capacity 65,000)