This season, members of the Greenville Drive will get to play in Fenway Park. Actually, they'll be playing in Greenville's own version of the storied ballpark.
A few days before Opening Day, the Drive, the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, will introduce their new ballpark to fans and players.
The park, still awaiting a name, is being referred to as West End Field due to its location in the historic West End district of the South Carolina city. West End Field is a downsized replica of Fenway Park, complete with a Green Monster and identical dimensions.
When the Greenville Braves left town, the Bombers took over. But a short stint left the community wondering if it would ever house another Minor League team. After narrowing down the options to three organizations, Minor League Baseball chose the RB3 ownership group to head up Greenville's new team.
"They stepped in here last February and sort of stuck it out in old Municipal Stadium last season," said Greenville general manager Mike deMaine. "They were more focused on this season so had to rush the process to get the new ballpark up and running in just 10 months."
The process to which deMaine referred entails building a new stadium. Normally, a team has the idea for a new ballpark, then asks where the money from the project will come from. In the Drive's case, the majority of West End Field's funding came from the owners. Once RB3 found a designer, proposals were sent out to architectural firms.
Once an architect signs on, construction companies are contacted and the actual building can begin.
"It's been a very interesting offseason. The entire staff is brand new, except for the owners, so we're trying to adjust to a completely new staff, get ready for a new season and oversee our new ballpark," chuckled Eric Jarinko, the Drive's director of media relations.
Jarinko also said the idea to model the facility after Fenway Park was a strategic move in terms of marketing and player development.
The Red Sox have such a dedicated following and the Drive wanted to bring part of it to South Carolina. Fenway's historical significance played a huge part in the decision to use it as a model, Jarinko said.
As of the beginning of March, the ballpark is approximately 90 percent completed, and the Drive expect it to be ready just a couple of days before the home opener on April 6.
"The average time to build a new ballpark is 18 months. We had 10 months, and with weather being a factor we're lucky we've gotten this far," deMaine said.
West End Field was designed by Roger Bossard, the man behind the last 10 Major League ballparks, including Milwaukee's Miller Park and Detroit's Comerica Park.
The dimensions are identical to those at Fenway, with the exception of center field. West End's Green Monster also is 30 feet shorter than Fenway's but still provides the perfect backdrop for members of the drive, who hope to take aim at the real thing one day.
The entire process has been easier than he's used to, deMaine said. Private funding for the nearly $20 million project helped move things along and enable the facility to open on time.
"Of course, that made things a lot easier. But that's not why the owners paid for it," deMaine said. "They did it because they had a vision before they even got here and they're truly dedicated to seeing that vision play out for fans, players and themselves."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.