BOSTON — Sports championships aren’t rare in Boston anymore, and security officials are drawing on what went right – and wrong – during recent victory celebrations as the Red Sox look to claim another title.
The Red Sox return to Fenway Park on Wednesday needing one win in the next two games against the St. Louis Cardinals to win their third World Series since 2004. Meanwhile, police are also dealing with a visit by President Obama, who’s stopping in town hours earlier Wednesday to discuss his health care reform.
City officials on Tuesday said they’re confident both events will go off smoothly. But they’re tightening parking restrictions, increasing police presence and asking the public to help unclog streets and keep any Red Sox victory celebrations safe.
“We’ve had some challenges and some tragedies,” said Boston Police Superintendent-in-chief Daniel Linsky. “We’re hoping that fans have grown and got accustomed to the championships, and we’re hoping that they realize that there’s no reason to destroy property to celebrate a sports victory.”
The Red Sox’s 2004 title was its first since 1918. But there have been plenty of reasons to celebrate Boston sports success since. The Sox won again in 2007, while the Patriots (2005), Celtics (2008) and Bruins (2011) have also won championships.
The postgame street partying after the wins has been generally uneventful, but not always. In 2004, a 21-year-old college student was killed by a pepper pellet fired by Boston police during crowd control efforts following the Red Sox win in the American League Championship Series.
In 2008, a 22-year-old man stopped breathing and later died after police took him into custody during street celebrations of the Celtics title.
Linsky said some changes since then aim to take down the crowd’s temperature. For instance, officers will be mixing in the crowd wearing regular uniforms, not riot gear.
“We used to put our hard gear on to kind of let people know we’re ready for trouble,” he said. “But we’ve found if we do that, people come looking for trouble.”
Police also now limit crowds near the park, he said. After the seventh inning, people won’t be allowed into Fenway or the surrounding streets, and if people already there decide to leave, they can’t come back.
“Instead of having a crowd of 800,000 in one area, we’ve got eight smaller crowds of 50,000 or so in different areas, and we’re able to manage this better,” Linsky said.
The April bombings at the Boston Marathon have police deploying extra bomb sniffing dogs to the Fenway area, as well as more undercover officers and officers trained to spot suspicious behavior, said Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “A lot of the stuff will be transparent, you won’t be able to see it,” he said.
Parking restrictions aim to thin out of the number of cars on streets around Fenway starting at 4 p.m., and officials warned people parking in local lots that they’ll be stuck there for a while after the game.
“We just ask everyone that comes to use public transportation,” said Mayor Tom Menino.
The mayor has asked downtown businesses to relieve congestion by letting workers go home by 4 p.m. Local bar owners have been asked to cover windows so crowds don’t gather outside to watch their TVs.
Menino said President Obama is planning to be out of Boston about an hour or so before the first pitch, and city officials have been in touch with the White House to try to ensure everything runs smoothly.