FOXBOROUGH - New England Patriots officials say they are prepared to handle both football fans and Christmas shoppers at their dual-purpose destination in Foxborough later today.
Patriot Place, the team's new shopping center next to Gillette Stadium, opened its first stores earlier this month. The biggest draw in the center, the region's first Bass Pro Shops store, attracted more than 60,000 visitors in its first five days.
"It's an extremely strong turnout for a retail opening," said Brian Earley, general manager of Patriot Place. "It exceeded our expectations."
Traffic has moved smoothly throughout the month at Patriot Place, which now has four big box stores - Circuit City, Christmas Tree Shops, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Bass Pro.
Since the stadium parking lots have been mostly empty - the Patriots were on the road in Buffalo last Sunday - parking has been more than adequate, according to Patriots officials. But the situation could become more complicated today, when nearly 70,000 fans descend on Foxborough for the undefeated Patriots' 8:15 p.m. game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Team officials plan to enforce parking restrictions in the lots around the Patriot Place stores. Shoppers will get tickets that allow vehicles to be parked for free in lots next to the stores, but there will be time restrictions to keep out tailgaters and people attending the game.
Earley said some of the stores at Patriot Place have not decided how late they will stay open on Sunday night. Christmas Tree Shops is scheduled to close at 10 p.m., he said. The managers at Bass Pro and the other stores may wait until Sunday night to decide, according to Earley. "It's sort of a game day decision," he said. Earley also said he does not anticipate major traffic problems arising with the new stores.
Most of the stores and other venues are not scheduled to open until next spring or fall. Patriot Place is to include a hotel, theater multiplex, football hall of fame, medical office building, a dozen restaurants, and about 70 stores, all arranged in an open-air lifestyle center mall.
The Bass Pro store at Patriot Place is the first New England outlet for the national outdoors retailer. The company expects the 150,000-square-foot store to draw visitors from 500 miles or more.
Robert Preer can be reached at email@example.com.