A world away from the gritty bleacher seats and snaking sausage lines, the inhabitants of the exclusive new EMC Club yesterday did something that once would have been unthinkable at Fenway Park: They sat in a restaurant with white tablecloths, nibbled sesame-seed tuna (pan-seared with a roasted tomato and ginger sauce for $32), and sipped pinot grigio.
“It’s hard to believe we’re at Fenway,” said Joe Campanelli, chief executive of Sovereign Bancorp’s New England division, who ordered a lobster bisque while seated at a prime table overlooking the field. “It’s a long way from those gray hot dogs in a tray.”
The Red Sox’s new $275-a-game haven is perfectly designed to appeal to the rich, the very rich, and the merely well connected. The little touches are everywhere. Valet parking attendants stand ready to take ticket holders’ cars. Heaters above the seats think french- fry warmers protect the bigwigs from Boston’s often-chilly weather. They can be escorted to batting practice and visit the Green Monster to get their photos taken. Even the restrooms come with fresh flowers and scented soap. No troughs here.
Unlike most of the ballpark, fans can order beer and wine from their cushioned seats, and a waiter will bring it to them. If they want souvenirs, they can get those hand-delivered, too.
“We don’t want them to have to leave their seats,” said Erin Burgoyne, the EMC Club’s official concierge. As one of her many official duties, she helps members buy tickets at other stadiums and get VIP treatment there.
Some of the fans appeared a little skeptical of the posh new club at first. “The song doesn’t go, `Buy us some crab cakes and calamari’ it’s `Buy us some peanuts and Cracker Jacks,’ “ groused one fan sitting at the bar. But he could not have been that upset: While waiting for the game to start, he polished off a round of crab cakes.
Others had no trouble taking the plunge into the Sox’s new yuppie haven. Matthew Thornhill ordered rare tuna on a lark, even though he said he did not know whether to trust the Sox’s high-end culinary skills. “I’m showing a lot of confidence,” he said. (After taking a bite, he pronounced it “very good.”)
The EMC Club replaces Fenway’s old glassed-in .406 Club, which the team demolished at the end of last season as part of one of the biggest renovations in the ballpark’s history. Fans had long attacked the old club for its piped-in sound and dress code (no jeans allowed), saying it did not feel a part of the ballpark. The new club, while still exclusive, has open-air seating that brings the ballpark’s most expensive seats back into the rest of the park.
“The problem with the old .406 Club is that was it was so hermetically sealed it was like a country club,” said Mike Egan, whose father cofounded EMC. He showed up to yesterday’s game in jeans and a Red Sox jersey, saying the Sox had abolished the dress code in the new club.
The EMC Club, which has a little over 400 seats, replaces only part of the former .406 Club. On the upper floor, the Sox have opened a Home Plate club, part of the new State Street Pavilion level. It is far more casual, with wooden tabletops and tile floors. For $195 a game, fans still get cushioned seats and clear sight lines to the field. The food reverts mostly to more traditional ballpark fare, including nachos ($11.95), buffalo chicken wings ($12.95), and a State Street Steak Sandwich ($15.95).
The new seating is part of a three-year building plan that ultimately will increase the ballpark’s capacity to nearly 40,000. The team will add more than 1,000 high-priced premium seats in the process. In the sports world, calling seats “premium” means they are attached to amenities, such as in-seat waiter service.
Kevin Keefe started to put in a lunch request from his in-seat waiter yesterday and, even before he finished ordering food, he already received his beer. “I can’t say a bad thing about these seats,” he said. “It’s great to be able to hear the game again. . . . These are probably the roomiest seats I’ve sat in in the park. They’re the most comfortable. There’s a great view. It’s a huge improvement over the .406 Club.”
The new EMC Club also has become a showplace for Sox memorabilia including every Gold Glove the Red Sox have received and the World Series trophy.
“We wanted a baseball feel,” said the team’s chief executive, Larry Lucchino.
(The New York Times Co., owner of The Boston Globe, owns 17 percent of the Red Sox.)
Upstairs, in the State Street Pavilion, Jonathan Bingham and his friend, Greg Bird, who got the $195 tickets from a business acquaintance, ordered two hot dogs and were astounded when they came in plastic containers, not the aluminum foil wrap used by the rest of the ballpark.
“When I order peanuts, I want them thrown to me from two sections over,” Bird said.
After a moment, though, he appeared to rethink his position. “Whatever it takes to pay Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz,” he said