Forget those hot, summer days, passing $10 down the row for a hotdog at Fenway Park.
The oldest ballpark in America is going cashless.
Officials announced this week that Fenway is leaving loose change behind this season — and presumably forever. Instead, fans will be required to use credit cards or touchless smartphone payments for purchases in the concourses and stands.
That means that a rumple of dollar bills won’t be enough to buy the beer, burgers, peanuts, and pretzels that fuel baseball season.
“The fully cashless environment,” a press release from the Red Sox read, will add a dose of convenience and “improve [the] speed of service.”
People who bring cash to a game will have to load it onto a Mastercard at one of three Cash-2-Card exchange kiosks. Those will be located on the Gate E Concourse, Home Plate Concourse, and the Kids Concourse, according to the release. (The debit card will be operable anywhere and does not expire, so fans are not required to spend its total value within the park.)
Here’s how it’ll work.
Hawkers will pass a handheld payment unit to seated fans in the stands, meaning no one will have to pass their credit cards to a stranger, said Pete Nesbit, the senior vice president of ballpark operations. A tipping system is “built into the software for all points of sale,” he added, though customers will still be free to tip in cash.
Nesbit said the move is a natural step for Fenway since the majority of fans already prefer paying with a credit card. In 2021, 90 percent of transactions at the ballpark were cashless.
Going cashless is “a significant trend in the industry that’s been going on for several years now,” Nesbit said. “And the pandemic has certainly accelerated that process.”
And Fenway is far from the first stadium to take the plunge.
Gillette Stadium forbade the use of paper money and installed similar kiosks at the 50-yard-line last year. Tickets for games and events there are fully mobile, too. Fenway Park has also done away with traditional paper tickets, though you can still print your digital ticket and have it scanned at an entrance.
Polar Park, the home of the WooSox in Worcester, debuted an autonomous retail store in December that sells snacks and memorabilia, with no scanning or checkout lines. The store employs a cluster of AI-powered ceiling cameras that tracks customers’ purchases in a “digital cart.”
Nesbit — and Fenway by extension — are aware that businesses in Massachusetts are required to accept cash, per a state law passed in 1978. “No retail establishment offering goods and services for sale shall discriminate against a cash buyer by requiring the use of credit,” it reads. But, he said, the kiosk system is a workaround, as it provides customers with cash an alternative.
Long lines at the kiosks are unlikely, Nesbit said, according to research from Aramark, the food vendor that runs concessions at Fenway and multiple other venues.
Still, some fans on Twitter seem unhappy with the change.
“Cashless Fenway Park. How lame. Why does society allow this to be the norm? Why does everyone hate cash?” asked one user.
“Everything about a ‘Fully Cashless Environment’ sucks,” wrote another. “But the routine of people passing money down the row to the hot dog guy, and then the hot dog guy passing the change back down the aisle, is the bedrock of society.”
Cashless Fenway Park. How lame. Why does society allow this to be the norm? Why does everyone hate cash? “They watched restaurants go through the migration and it will also speed up service for fans.” Lies. Such lies. What “migration”? We all love cash. This will be pure agony. pic.twitter.com/SSwNqSHtNk— Michael Moxley (@BostonMoxley) April 14, 2022
There’ll be other new changes when fans return to the ballpark for Friday’s home opener. Among them: the Truly Terrace, an 8,800-square-foot open-air concourse space with a bar and a “grab and go” drink market; 521 Overlook, a 7,600-square-foot event space that can fit 600 people; and a newly built studio that will serve as NESN’s new broadcast home for their pre- and post-game shows during Red Sox home games.
And for the first time ever, there will also be a sponsor name on the Fenway grass: Aspiration, a bank that’s partnering with the Red Sox on climate offsets and that pledges not to use customer money to fund fossil fuels.
“Through a partnership with Aspiration, their name will now be featured near the fungo circles on the grass between the warning track and the infield,” a statement read. “As part of the partnership, and consistent with the club’s ongoing commitment to sustainability initiatives, the Red Sox will invest a portion of each ticket purchased by fans to the Aspiration Planet Protection Fund to help offset the carbon footprint of fans attending games.”
Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff contributed to this story.