For the first time since 1912, the annual Yale-Harvard football game will take place at neither the storied Yale Bowl nor Harvard Stadium. Instead, Boston’s Fenway Park, the oldest venue in baseball, will host the rivalry.
Just over a week after Yale trounced Harvard 24–3 in the 134th edition of The Game, Fenway Sports Management and the City of Boston announced Wednesday that the 135th Game will take place at the iconic ballpark, which has held a variety of nonbaseball events over the past few years.
“We are excited to play next year’s game against Harvard at one of the most iconic venues in all of sports,” Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said in a press release. “Fenway Park will provide an incredible stage for one of college football’s most storied rivalries. This will be an experience our student-athletes, coaches, alumni and fans will not soon forget.”
Built in 1912, Fenway Park is the home of the Boston Red Sox — but recently, it has hosted hockey, soccer and college football games. The Boston Bruins skated against the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL Winter Classic in 2010. Three years ago, Liverpool F.C. — an English soccer club in which the Fenway Sports Group has a majority ownership stake — dueled Boston-owned Italian club A.S. Roma at the ballpark. In 2015, Boston College battled Notre Dame in the first football game at Fenway since 1968.
Yet logistical concerns remain. Over 50,000 people filled the Yale Bowl on Nov. 18 for The Game, but Fenway is significantly smaller than the Yale Bowl, seating just over 37,000.
Although the ballpark is bigger than Harvard Stadium, the announcement raised questions about how the venue would support the rivalry, as it has never before hosted The Game.
“Fenway only holds something like 30,000, so I’m not sure how the seating is going to work,” 2018 Yale football captain Kyle Mullen ’19 said. “It will be interesting to find out.”
Moreover, with Fenway located three miles from Harvard’s campus in a densely populated area, fans have expressed concerns about transportation and tailgating. Unlike the Yale Bowl and Harvard Stadium, Fenway is not surrounded by large open spaces in which fans can tailgate. Public transportation via the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will require a circuitous route and a line change.
Chief Strategy Officer for MBTA Scott Bosworth said that the MTBA has experience managing large scale events and that he expects a “robust transportation plan to be developed and socialized well before the historic event.” Scott added that Fenway Park is serviced by several T stops, and “direct bus routes to and from Cambridge to the Park” will provide an additional option for fans.
“I have no doubt that the fans will find access very manageable,” Scott said.
Still, Scott acknowledged, “Tailgating will be a challenge.” Harvard Associate Director of Athletics Tim Williamson told the News more information would be forthcoming about tailgating and transportation.
Fenway hosted three college football games this season, including Dartmouth’s 33–10 victory over Brown.
“Playing at Fenway was an invaluable, priceless experience for me,” Boston native and Brown safety James Fadule said. “Seeing the Brown ‘B’ on the banner hanging from the Green Monster and receiving a police escort from our hotel to the field were special moments for me. It lived up to the hype to say the least.”
Mullen, who was elected captain last week, said Team 146 is excited for the unique atmosphere and the opportunity to play in a professional stadium.
Falling on the 50th anniversary of the 1968 thriller in which Harvard made a 16-point comeback in the last minute force a tie, the 135th iteration of The Game was already set to have a historical undercurrent that will only amplify the new venue.
“The Harvard-Yale football game is a classic matchup, and Fenway Park is a beloved Boston landmark and classic in its own right,” Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement to the News. “Boston looks forward to hosting Harvard, and all visitors, in 2018 for this iconic game.”
In 1875, Harvard won the first football game between the two schools 4–0.
Won Jung contributed reporting.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org