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Harvard will aim to host tailgates for next year’s Harvard-Yale football showdown near Fenway Park to encourage attendance at the Game, according to Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise.
In an interview Thursday, Scalise said that while the potential renovations to Harvard Stadium that were cited as a reason for the move will not move ahead, Fenway is working with the College to explore nearby locations to host the pre-game festivities. He also said the Department is working with Fenway to coordinate transportation between the campus and the stadium downtown—some students had been worried about traveling between campus tailgates and the ballpark.
“They’re going to basically open up anything they can control and work with us to open up other venues that the city controls, and that includes streets, parking lots, and establishments nearby,” Scalise said. “So we’re going to get a full menu of those and make those available to people.”
Scalise said Harvard may still host tailgates on campus as a fallback, adding he believes tailgates closer to the park will encourage more fans to attend the Game.
“We could always bus people over and then back. Fenway has offered to help us with that,” he said. “But we think that it will be a better experience if it’s by Fenway so people actually go to the game. One of the issues that we always have, even at our tailgates here, is getting people out of the tailgates and into the game.”
Harvard first looked into moving the location of the Game two years ago after “exploratory work” revealed some infrastructure problems at the Harvard Stadium, according to Scalise. Over the years, cycles of freezing and expanding water have damaged some concrete and the metal rebar framing in the stadium.
“There’s no safety issue,” Scalise said. “What it is is the potential for damage over an extended period of time.”
At the time, the Department was unsure if the damage would require renovations that could affect the Game, so Scalise said they began looking into the logistics of hosting the Game elsewhere as a backup option. Scalise said Harvard considered both Gillette Stadium—home of the New England Patriots football team—and the historic Fenway Park, which is home to the Boston Red Sox.
But the Department is not currently planning to go through with the renovations next year, according to Scalise.
“It started out as finding a new space for the Harvard-Yale game if we did major work on the stadium. It doesn’t look like we’re going to do major work on the stadium,” he said. “It still is a good thing to do, plus we had to make the contractual arrangements to actually play the game there.”
If the Department decides to undertake renovations, they will most likely happen incrementally over a number of years.
“What I am hearing is that the price tag to actually do what we all would want to do with the stadium will probably dictate a more annual approach to it rather than a big redo-the-stadium approach,” he said.
Athletics Department spokesperson Timothy J. Williamson said the Department is still working with Fenway to figure out ticket, seating, and other logistics. When asked what moving the Game to Fenway will cost, Scalise repeatedly said Fenway will keep Harvard “whole.”
“They’re going to keep us whole. That’s the arrangement, so Fenway is going to do what they can to keep us whole,” Scalise said. “It wasn’t a financial decision at all, this was an experience decision.”
Fenway previously hosted football games between Notre Dame and Boston College last year and more recently between Dartmouth and Brown this fall.
In addition to being the first Game played away from the Yale Bowl or Harvard Stadium since 1912, next year’s meeting of the Crimson and the Bulldogs will also be the 50th anniversary of the historic 1968 Game in which the teams tied 29-29.
—Staff writer Brittany N. Ellis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @britt_ellis10.
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