Cheap parking at Fenway? Only during a pandemic

BOSTON (AP) — The sign says it will cost $60 to park at the Sunoco gas station just beyond Fenway Park’s right field bleachers.

These days, though, you can get a spot for $10.

Like the other businesses around the ballpark, they are happy to have any customers they can get during a baseball season that is being played without fans. Souvenir stores, sausage stands and parking lots where spots go for as much as $100 during the playoffs — they’re all hurting.

“It’s hard,” said Hadi Alhili, a night attendant at the lot. “We’re losing too much money.”

The coronavirus pandemic has hit all kinds of businesses hard, including restaurants and stores that were closed down for months and reopened to find fewer customers were eager to venture out. But for the establishments surrounding major league ballparks, the resumption of play has been a special kind of sadness: they’re glad to have the games back, but they can’t make any money without fans.

“Never have I seen anything like this,” said Jeff Swartz, a manager at The Team Store, a 20,000 square-foot souvenir shop that has been open across the street from Fenway Park for 75 years.

“It’s never been this empty unless they’re not playing,” said Swartz, who has worked at the store for 30 years. “Business is off as much as you can imagine. It’s negligible.”

Jersey Street in front of the store is usually gated off on game days to create a pedestrian mall that provides ticketed fans with some extra space to roam that isn’t possible within the century-old ballpark. In addition to food stands, there might be a brass band, a stilt-walker and someone making balloon animals for kids.

This year, all is quiet.

Buses line up, waiting to take the visiting team back to their hotels. Police officers in masks detour cars — there aren’t enough of them to call it “traffic” — down a side street. Cousins Rachel Sharf and Robbie Schmidt wander by after picking up souvenirs from a trip that wasn’t at all what they had planned.

“I was supposed to come here for my birthday,” said Sharf, who was wearing a matching Red Sox shirt and mask. “But then COVID hit.”

Elsewhere around the perimeter of the ballpark, some businesses were trying to muddle through.

Sausage stand: closed. Pizza place: closed. Parking lots: open but mostly empty. Restaurants: open for outside dining or limited capacity. The nightclubs of Lansdowne Street, beyond the Green Monster: closed.

A nearby brew pub has signs in the window saying “Times Have Changed” and “But Loyalty Is Forever.” Another says “See You Next Season.” The landmark Cask and Flagon is open, with 15 picnic tables and 12 smaller ones on the sidewalk that would usually be jammed by fans making their way from Kenmore Square to Fenway Park.

Sometimes they’ll find their way into the Red Sox Team Store, Swartz said.

“A lot of people come in here and say ‘We came in because you’re the only ones that are open,’” he said. “And there’s air conditioning.”

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AP freelancer Ken Powtak contributed to this story.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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