In a year in which the Red Sox will celebrate their 100th birthday at their Boston ballpark the team will debut their spring training homage to Fenway Park in Fort Myers, where they have trained since 1993 at the now abandoned but still standing City of Palms Park
While the Red Sox have been firmly entrenched in Fenway Park for a full century, City of Palms Park was deemed deficient after just 19 seasons of spring time use and to keep the team happy, and in town, a new state-of-the-art stadium and complex, referred to as JetBlue Park at Fenway South, was built and paid for by Lee County just a dozen miles from the former Red Sox spring training stadium the county also owns.
City of Palms Park was framed by the greenery of palm trees and its replacement will forever be famous for its green backdrop in left field, where a 37' high replica of Fenway Park's Green Monster will also be the signature feature at Fenway South. The Fort Myers Monster will look different in one respect, as a few rows of seats are being built into a hollowed out portion of the wall. Taut netting will be placed in place of the missing Monster, which will have a single row of drink rail seats and a deck on top of it.
Aside from the Green Monster seating deviation, JetBlue Park stays mostly true to the ballpark it mimics, going so far as to have the same cast-iron seats in its seating bowl, which is a duplicate of the lower grandstand layout at Fenway Park. Overall, the Fort Myers ballpark has roughly a quarter of the seats that Fenway has.
Capacity of JetBlue Park is estimated to be 11,000, with 9,990 of that total coming from fixed seats, which includes three sections of bleachers in right-center field that can seat 400 people. The bleachers are behind a berm than can hold about 1,000 fans and in front of that elevated grassy area are the bullpens, set side-by-side in the same location and at the same distance from home plate as they are in Boston.
One feature that JetBlue Park didn't just copy but literally took from Fenway Park is the manual scoreboard at the base of its Green Monster. It happens to be an authentic one that was used in Boston for parts of four decades. Moved into storage in 2001 and refurbished in South Dakota a decade later, the celebrated scoreboard will compliment the state-of-the-art one (meaning it has a high definition video panel) standing behind the berm in right field.
Although the similarities between the ballparks in Boston and Fort Myers are quite pronounced, JetBlue Park will differ from its inspiration in some equally prominent regards. Whereas Fenway is notably painted green and sports a facade of brick, JetBlue Park will be made mostly of steel that's colored white. The distinctive cantilevered roof that traces the upper grandstand is white as well, each of its panels angled differently in a design quirk that looks reminiscent of the zig-zag roof behind the Dodger Stadium bleachers. JetBlue Park's wavy roof, in the words of its architect, actually represents "the energy and movement" of the cypress trees that are native to the area.
While that comparison might be difficult to make for most fans, noticing that the quirky field dimensions of Boston's bandbox ballpark have been replicated in Fort Myers should be an obvious observation for any member of Red Sox Nation. And all fans will be able to congregate pre-game on a road alongside of JetBlue Park that will feature the "street festival" atmosphere found on game day at Yawkey Way, thereby leaving little doubt that JetBlue Park will look and feel like Fenway South.
Location and Parking
The one thing that Fenway and City of Palms Park had in common was their neighborhood location. JetBlue Park, however, has lots of green space, rather than residences, around it. In fact, prior to its construction, cows were about as common a sight as cars on the stretch of Daniels Parkway that JetBlue Park was built off of. Still, there's not much between I-75 and the spring training complex, which are separated by only about two miles. Getting to the ballpark is as simple as taking Exit 131 and going east until you spot it on your left.
While one day there will be a lot going on in the area -- the Red Sox bought the 20 acres of frontage property between the complex and Daniels Parkway in anticipation -- most development won't take place until well after the inaugural season at JetBlue Park is done. The one important destination that has been in the vicinity for quite some time is Southwest Florida International Airport, which is about halfway between I-75 and JetBlue Park, making the airline-sponsored ballpark name rather appropriate.
Parking will be plentiful and quite the cash cow for the team, as the inaugural season price is expected to be $10 per vehicle. If that is indeed the case then JetBlue Park will be just the third spring training ballpark to reach the $10/car threshold, following Steinbrenner Field (Yankees) and Charlotte Sports Park (Rays). Fans will park in grass fields on opposite sides of JetBlue Park that will be used for soccer by local teams outside of the spring training season.
2014 Red Sox Spring Training Schedule in Fort Myers at JetBlue Park