Construction of Big Air is under way at Fenway Park and it’s going to be big, really big. Any day now, if you’re driving through Kenmore Square or along the Mass. Pike, you’ll see the top of biggest thing you’ve ever seen at the ballyard. Way bigger than Big Papi. Bigger than even — wait for it, Sox fans — the Green Monster.
The tippity top of the made-for-Fenway hill at Big Air, the ISF-sanctioned ski and snowboard event slated for Feb. 11-12, will be 150 feet high. If you’re scoring at home, or as you zip by the Fens, that’s roughly 20 feet above the top row of lights in any of Fenway’s Godzilla-like light towers. Harmon Killebrew launched some prodigious popups in his visits to Fenway, but even The Killer would have marveled at such heights.
Now, as for whatever havoc high winds could cause . . .
“We’ll be good up to 105 miles an hour,’’ said a confident Mike Zorena, owner of Sutton-based ConsultantZee, Inc., who is overseeing the company’s awe-inspiring Big Air engineering feat. “Not a problem.’’
Smart and interesting guy, Zorena, whose company not long ago erected acres of scaffolding for a Pope Francis gig at Vatican City. He knows his stuff, including such things as how many pounds of ballast (320,000) it will take to anchor Big Air’s gargantuan mountain to Fenway’s lawn.
However, if the winds top out at 105 m.p.h. in the Back Bay’s lyric little bandbox come showtime, we’ve got a way bigger story than whatever gravity-defying tricks some of the world’s best boarders or free skiers might throw our way. And though I am neither qualified nor authorized to speak on such subjects, I have it on the deep, deep inside that the BostonGlobe.com paywall will come down if the winds reach warp factor 5. In fact, I suspect everything else in the city will come down, other than the Big Air hill and maybe the TD Garden parking rates.
Big Air is unlike anything we’ve ever seen around here, although Boston Garden staged a smaller version (Grandfather of Big Air?) for a few years, beginning in 1935. Walter Brown, then the czar of Causeway Street, was inspired by a trip to Haymarket Square, where he witnessed fish chilled on beds of ice. Correct in his belief that icing down a ramp could lead to the production of an indoor launch, Brown soon had skiers starting their runs from the top of the second balcony, their heads nearly scraping against the Garden ceiling as they maneuvered into ready position.
Well, Big Air ain’t Walter Brown’s Garden winter carnival. Sponsored by Lawrence-based Polartec, the popular outdoorware manufacturer, Big Air will be the first time 60 of the world’s top male and female free skiers and boarders — some of whom will be seen at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang — strut their stuff inside a ballpark for a FIS World Cup event.
According to Eric Webster, senior director of events for the US Ski and Snowboard Association, some of the skiers will attempt quadruple flips, no different than if they were working a natural hill in California, Nevada, Switzerland, or France. Fenway is intimate and cozy, but not so small that it stopped Webster and the folks at Fenway, including Red Sox president Sam Kennedy and top aide Fred Olsen, from thinking outside the bandbox.
“I am super confident,’’ said Webster, “that it’s designed to showcase our sport . . . this will be a unique, special, great show.’’
It’s 420 feet from home plate to center field at Fenway, and the Big Air hill, lined up in that very trajectory, will be all of that, with athletes finishing their runs (ideally) at the foot of the backstop behind home plate. The top of the hill, up there above the light towers, will back up against the bleachers and will be accessible by an elevator. Goodnight Moon! Nothing has ever loomed over Fenway like these Back Bay Alps, save for perhaps the CITGO sign.
Tickets for Big Air will be priced $30 to $100, and both Olsen and Webster last week identified the X Games crowd, mainly teenagers and twentysomethings, as the key demographic. They’re hopeful it will appeal to the family market, too. With the bleachers closed off, capacity each of the two nights will be about 25,000, with the action shown on NBCSN each night and then a wrapup aired on NBC on the weekend.
It’s a novelty item, for sure, and an expensive one to stage. Construction began in mid-January and it will take a 50-member crew just shy of a full month to complete, aided by a 275-ton crane already on the premises to construct some new permanent seating on the right-field upper deck. Neither the Red Sox nor USSSA would reveal the cost of construction.
We don’t always do well around here with our big sports dreams.
The Boston 2024 Olympic idea, idyllic in theory, fell apart faster than a $1,500 Suffolk claimer when put in a race against public opinion.
The city’s first Indy-style Grand Prix race, a huge event planned over a few days this Labor Day weekend, hangs on desperately right now, caught in the middle of one of our city’s oldest sports — political handball. Not everyone agrees that the huge potential financial impact of a big car race, staged on a quiet holiday weekend in the Seaport, is something worth trying. Too bad. But so Boston, at least the Boston that we like to purport, doesn’t really exist any more.
But bring on the skiers, the boarders, and whatever else they want to bring to the Back Bay’s high terrain. I think it’s great and hope to be there both nights. Less than a week after the snowmen and snowwomen complete their final runs at Fenway, the Sox will open spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.
Manmade or natural, who better than Sox fans to know what it takes to navigate and survive the slippery slopes?