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Red Sox step up policing of alcohol use

Respond to recent ballpark incidents

Boston police officers are patrolling Fenway Park's busiest beer stands. The Red Sox have nearly doubled the number of alcohol compliance supervisors at the ball yard. And video announcements are reminding fans to follow the park's nine-rule code of conduct that instructs them, among other things, to drink responsibly.

These changes in enforcement, which went into effect on Friday, were made after two liquor license violations, a recent scuffle between a fan and New York Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield, and reports that the volume of beer sold was up sharply at Fenway.

A team spokesman said yesterday that the Red Sox and Aramark, the park's concessionaire, are beefing up enforcement to help preserve Fenway's family environment.

''Our basic point is take proactive measures," said Charles Steinberg, team spokesman.

Two weeks ago, the Globe reported that since the new owners of the Red Sox took over in 2001, they have significantly expanded alcohol sales at Fenway Park, adding at least 16 new beer stands, according to the city licensing board. Tomorrow, the board will hold a hearing on two licensed premises violations at Fenway. Steinberg said the changes are not related to the hearing.

''Regardless of whether there was a hearing Tuesday we wanted to continue to make improvements," he said.

The team has increased from five to nine the number of compliance supervisors, who are charged with making sure minors don't drink and that inebriated fans are not buying more beer, Steinberg said. The code of conduct is already on display at the park's scoreboard and will be listed in more than a million pocket-size team schedules. It asks fans to avoid balls in play, watch their language, and not trespass onto the field, among other things. The team is also asking any fans who see violators of the code to call park security so the offenders may be removed.

''Probably more than 99 percent of the fans know the code of conduct and know not only to abide by it, but they defend it," Steinberg said. ''If you stay put and simply enjoy the fact that nearly all of your fans comply, then you may not be doing all you can to strive for 100 percent participation."

Last week, a court official decided not to bring criminal charges against a Red Sox fan, Christopher House of Dorchester, saying he was reaching for the ball when he tangled with Sheffield during a home game in April. The Red Sox revoked House's season tickets. The official also found that a second fan, Matthew Donovan, also of Dorchester, was bumped and accidentally sent his beer flying toward Sheffield, not tossing it as police had alleged. The team has banned Donovan from buying tickets, although he can still attend games.

The volume of beer sold at Fenway jumped roughly 20 percent in 2004 from 2003 and the team has also increased by a third the size of beer cups, from 12 ounces to 16 ounces. The park still sells 12-ounce cans of beer.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he had never heard complaints about excessive drinking at the park and praised the changes.

''I think the Red Sox once again show they're customer-fan friendly," he said.

Michael Connolly, who sits on the licensing board, has said he received numerous complaints from people anxious about excessive drinking and rowdy crowds in the stands.

''That's certainly good news," he said yesterday of the changes. ''It certainly mollifies my concerns and hopefully we'll have a new day."

Councilor John Tobin said the changes made sense, though he still questioned selling beer in 16-ounce cups.

''That's something they'll probably want to revisit," he said. ''But there is no denying the fact that the beer industry is a big contributor to sports. You don't have to look any further than right field where there is a Budweiser sign illuminating . . . They're kind of in a Catch-22."

Of the 11 Major League ballparks where Aramark is the concessionaire, only Fenway sells 16-ounce cups as the maximum size, Steinberg said.

''I believe virtually every other park [sells] 24 ounces," he said, adding, ''16 was enough of an incremental change . . . The preservation of the family environment is fundamental."

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com.

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