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Keep what your customers love! How the Boston Red Sox rejuvenated a 90 year old icon

The Boston Red Sox are an iconic Major League Baseball franchise with a long history of both success (5 of the first 16 World Series) and heartbreak (the Curse of the Bambino anyone?).

In 2002, Sox fans were apprehensive. John Henry led an ownership group that bought the Red Sox after they had spent almost 70 years in the hands of the Yawkey family and trust. Of utmost concern was Fenway Park, the smallest and oldest stadium in the majors that author John Updike once called the "lyric little bandbox". Would Henry and his partners tear down 90 years of baseball memories to build a modernized version with luxury suites and a corporate partner’s name?

The actions of Henry and his partners are a masterclass in listening to your customers. Larry Lucchino (another of the three owners) was named CEO and immediately stated that, “we will preserve all that is good about Fenway Park and take that experience to new levels.” Then they invited Erika Tarlin from the group Save Fenway Park to present the proposals her organization had developed over the past few years with the local community. After getting feedback and hiring a stadium operations expert known for her work integrating Baltimore’s Camden Yards into the local landscape, the owners were ready to present the next steps.

They would be installing seats on Fenway’s iconic “Green Monster” left field wall, increasing concourse space, provide handicap accessibility, and revitalize the surrounding neighborhood. The local residents were quick to side with the team and the Red Sox assigned a specific group to handle all aspects of the Fenway Park renovation including a specific focus on neighborhood outreach – the “Fenway Affairs” department.

This department ensures that community members know what’s next for Fenway. There’s a yearly neighborhood meeting where impacted groups get a stadium tour and update of upcoming changes before the rest of the public. There, they can also voice their concerns and ask questions. Baseball fans are happy too…the Green Monster seats are now on the bucket list of thousands across the country.

If you’ve got either a 90-year-old stadium or a 9-month-old service offering, there are a few lessons to remember from how the Red Sox handled the Fenway Park situation:

1) Get feedback from your customers and listen to it

2) Reassure them that you’re going to keep the features they love

3) Find the right person to lead the changes and keep all stakeholders informed

Covering all three of these bases will give you a great chance of winning the game!

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