The message heralding the end of an era on Yawkey Way came over the loudspeakers outside Fenway Park at exactly 4:40 p.m. yesterday.
“Yawkey Way is now closed as a public way,” a voice said, advising pedestrians to clear the street as quickly as possible. A phalanx of Boston police officers helped them along, and by 4:45 chain-link fences adorned with the Red Sox logo had slammed shut. Minutes later, Red Sox workers had portable turnstiles in place across the width of the street.
The new day on Yawkey Way dawned at 5:05 p.m., when hundreds of ticket-holding fans began clanking through the turnstiles near Brookline Avenue for their first glimpse of the team’s new vision for the street: an arcade featuring concession stands, entertainment, and exhibits designed to enlarge the cramped concourse of the smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball. Reviews were mostly positive.
John Brenner, 45, of Easton said he appreciated the “eclectic nature” of the food and beer selections. Rich Cichowski, 36, of Leicester, said limiting the street to ticket holders created much-needed breathing space. And 10-year-old Angel Perez of Boston was thrilled that the new plan includes a half-hour of public access to batting practice.
As soon as they walked in - to the sound of a jazz duo playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” - fans were greeted by a young man hawking official team programs for $3. To the left was Making the Game, a booth manned by employees of the Rawlings sporting goods company where personally engraved bats were on sale for $65. A man in a Red Sox uniform - “Mr. Upperdeck” - walked around on stilts.
Red Sox officials said they were happy with how Yawkey came off, although somebody stole Mr. Upperdeck’s oversized ball.
Not everybody was thrilled, however. The independent vendors, no longer allowed to operate on Yawkey, had to make do on nearby streets.
“My sister is going to make more money than me baby-sitting tonight,” said Sly Egidio, who has been selling an unofficial team magazine, Boston Baseball, outside Fenway for nine years. Egidio’s boss, publisher Michael Rutstein, has sued the Red Sox in an effort to quash the Yawkey Way closure.
As Egidio sold his wares on the corner of Yawkey and Brookline - for $2, a dollar cheaper than the official team program - he used a sales approach that the vendors on Yawkey Way certainly weren’t using.
“Read all about your lukewarm Sox - they’re not hot, that’s for sure,” he said, referring to the team’s recent slide.