What is the perfect gift for someone obsessed with Lego bricks and the Boston Red Sox? It would be easy to assume I was describing myself, but this time I’m talking about my 9 year old son. But both of us enjoyed his big birthday gift this year, a Lego model of Fenway Park!
No, the Lego Company hasn’t licensed the famous ballpark. But they do offer something almost as good – a build-to-order service called Lego Factory, which allows you to design your own Lego set on a PC or Mac and have it delivered to your door!
So, with equal parts enthusiasm and foolishness, I sat down this fall with my Mac, a copy of the Lego Digital Designer software, and numerous photos of my favorite landmark and started working.
Although the software is really excellent, it still took a month of evenings to get the park modeled to my satisfaction. It only offers a subset of a few hundred brick types to choose from, but the software let me snap, copy, rotate, and place the pieces with ease.
I had planned to build the whole darn park, inside and out, but reality got in the way. Luckily I started with the diamond, the famous Green Monster, and the unique field shape so I ended up with a recognizable and rewarding model. I did construct much of the Yawkey Way facade, but that will have to wait for next birthday!
Once I had my model built in the LDD software, I submitted it to the Lego Factory. I held my breath while waiting for a price, knowing Lego’s notoriously high pricing, but it wasn’t too bad: Around 750 pieces in a custom box, shipped for $88.34.
Delivery took the better part of a month, and no wonder: The stickers on the box indicate that it traveled through Poland, Hong Kong, Denmark, and JFK (via American Airlines) before arriving at my door in Ohio!
The custom box left something to be desired – it merely held a paper printout of the model behind a clear plastic window. And I was surprised to find all of the bricks in a single large plastic bag. In fact, the bag barely fit inside the box, and I think I was brushing against the upper size limit for Lego Factory orders!
Sadly, Lego’s software failed when it came to creating an instruction booklet. I imagine it could have handled a simpler model, but my default directions were bizarrely complicated, instructing me to put a single piece here and there over hundreds of steps.
Instead, I had to export the model in the open LDraw format, which only Lego Digital Designer for Windows is apparently capable of. From there, I was able to open it in the solid freeware MLCad application and put together my own instruction booklet. All of this required Windows, but my Mac has VMware Fusion and Boot Camp, so that was no problem at all!
After a satisfyingly excited birthday-morning gift-opening session, we set about constructing “our” ballpark. Astonishingly, Lego included every piece required to build the model and not a single extra! It took a few evenings, but our playroom now holds a fairly large and detailed model of the Red Sox playing field and its surroundings.
Want your own copy of my model? Lego’s Factory web site lets you buy a model designed by someone else. So if you look around, you might find a model called “Ballpark 2″ and that’s mine. But I couldn’t find it. If you’re interested, I’ll email the model to you – get my address from the “About” page.
We are also planning on continuing to add to this model. My son is already planning how to build the club, and I’ve got Yawkey Way under way. I’ll post here when we progress further!
Update! By popular demand, here are the links for the sources for the field section pictured here. Note that Lego changes parts availability all the time. If Lego Digital Designer complains that it can’t be priced, just try again in a few days.