Fenway Park has hosted concerts, European soccer matches, college hockey, and the NHL’s Winter Classic between the Bruins and Flyers. Now Fenway will host a Notre Dame “Shamrock Series” football game.
The tradition-steeped Fighting Irish will come to the Back Bay and play a home game against Boston College on Nov. 21, 2015. The game will be televised by NBC at 7:30 p.m. The last time a football game was at Fenway was the Patriots’ final home game of the 1968 AFL season.
“We are pleased to bring one of football’s most historic rivalries to Fenway Park as we host the Fighting Irish and Eagles in what will be the first football game at Fenway in 47 years,” said Sam Kennedy, president of Fenway Sports Management and Red Sox executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We look forward to hosting Notre Dame and Boston College, and welcoming the many alumni from both schools to New England for what we hope will be a memorable matchup.”
The Shamrock Series are Notre Dame home games played away from South Bend, Ind. The Irish will return in 2017 for a traditional away game at Alumni Stadium as part of a contractual agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference to play at least five ACC teams per season.
“[The Fenway game] will celebrate the traditions and history between these two programs,’’ said BC athletic director Brad Bates.
“It’s cool,’’ said BC coach Steve Addazio. “[Notre Dame coach] Brian Kelly’s a Mass. guy and I think it’s really cool. I think it’s neat. I’m all for it.’’
Notre Dame’s decision to bring its Shamrock Series to Boston marks a departure from the venues the Irish have visited in their five previous games, all wins. The Irish have visited the Alamodome in San Antonio, Yankee Stadium, FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Soldier Field in Chicago, and Cowboys Stadium.
Dave Mellor, Fenway’s head groundskeeper, said the conversion to football would not pose any more issues than the conversion to a soccer pitch, which required the removal of the pitcher’s mound and the sodding of the clay infield.
“I worked for the Brewers for 16 years, and for eight of those years, the Packers played [at County Stadium], so I’m very familiar with the conversion from baseball to football,’’ Mellor said. “Also, the fact we’ve had soccer at Fenway, it’s very similar to what we did for soccer. There’ll be a little more painting involved, setting up the bench lines, but it’s very similar to soccer, so I anticipate it going very smoothly.’’
Before agreeing to the game, Notre Dame measured the field to make sure there wouldn’t be a repeat of Northwestern’s game against Illinois at Wrigley Field in 2010, in which the teams could only play on offense toward the west end zone because the east end zone came within a foot of a brick wall.
The Irish apparently will give up a considerable gate by playing a home game at a ballpark with roughly half the capacity of Notre Dame Stadium (80,795 seats).
Fenway officials said capacity for MLB games is 37,495; Notre Dame officials are expecting to fetch a premium price for all of them.
“That’s the reality of going to a smaller venue, a special venue, one of the great venues in America,’’ said Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
“To make the game work economically with that many seats, it will be a premium ticket price.’’
While Swarbrick was unable to say what those prices might be, Forbes Magazine reported this year that Notre Dame fetched the highest average home ticket prices in the country, topping $294.
“We need the economics of the Shamrock Series games to approach the economics of a home game,’’ said Swarbrick. “When you’re reducing by half the amount of seat inventory you have, you do have to make an adjustment in price.’’