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Patriots plan hits hurdle

Prior Coverage

-- JUNE 23 --
Patriots look to win over town on stadium

-- JUNE 9 --
43 of 80 suites sold for proposed stadium

-- MAY 25 --
Stadium bill signed, but seat sales lag

Impasse on steam plant site clears
Finneran offers idea on Patriots stadium
In Conn., Patriots' stadium deal opponents plan lawsuit
Hartford steam plant defends its moving cost
Patriots stadium plan threatened
Kraft has new suitor in Houston
Patriots dealt setback on Conn. site
Moving fee could trip Patriots
Conn. must meet April 2 deadline
How Kraft's Mass. dream fizzled
Krafts seen winning generous deal
Conn. OK's deal
Activist skeptical
More stadium fallout
Whither Foxboro

Stadium deal gives Patriots an escape

Conn. must meet April 2 deadline

By Tina Cassidy, Globe Staff, 02/13/99

Connecticut officials must show by April 2 that they can clear the proposed Hartford stadium site for the New England Patriots, or team owner Robert Kraft can walk away from the $374 million deal, according to the final development agreement released last night.

The state also has to prove it can pay for infrastructure and potentially costly environmental cleanup with the $55 million already allocated by the state's General Assembly.

In no uncertain terms, the 225-page document pressures officials to demonstrate they can meet all of their obligations in a timely fashion and gives Kraft a legal escape if the state fails to keep its promises.

Still, both sides said they viewed yesterday's early morning signing of the agreement -- following a marathon meeting -- as a positive step toward moving the Patriots to Hartford by 2002 at the latest.

``It signals a significant milestone in the process of completing this project,'' said Patriots spokesman Stacey James. The document commits the team to stay in Hartford for 30 years and requires it to ``establish an office with marketing, public relations, and community affairs staff in Hartford . . . no later than April 2.''

Governor John G. Rowland was at a conference in Miami yesterday and could not be reached for comment. His spokesman, Dean Pagani, said the governor's greatest concern all along has been moving the CTG Resources Inc. steam plant from the proposed stadium location. CTG is considering an offer to vacate, raising hope that the site may be cleared soon.

``He's confident that will be taken care of in the not too distant future,'' Pagani said. ``He thinks he can convince [the Patriots] within 60 days.''

There are, however, still many questions unanswered.

For example, no one knows how badly the site is contaminated, although a study conducted a decade ago found high levels of pollutants.

Without a definitive environmental survey of the 11 riverfront acres owned by the steam plant, it is impossible to say how much cleanup might cost, specialists say.

A new study would have to be done very quickly to answer those questions, but some environmentalists privately said the April 2 deadline would be hard to meet.

About $55 million was earmarked for infrastructure improvements and site remediation in the stadium bill passed in December.

If cleanup of the site skyrockets past $10 million, it could pose a serious threat to the project's funding, or possibly undermine the state's promise to build ramps and parking lots that would allow for easy access to and from the stadium, as has been promised.

Consumer crusader Ralph Nader, who lives in Connecticut, said he is worried the state may skimp on cleaning up the site to save money.

``They want to keep the costs down,'' Nader said. ``This stadium is never going to be built. There isn't a doubt in my mind. Rowland is wasting his time . . . there's just too many pitfalls, too many hurdles, a growing revolt, one of the strongest in modern Connecticut history.''

Pagani downplayed those concerns and said there are a number of possible funding sources for the environmental costs, including some money put up by local businesses banking on the massive redevelopment of downtown Hartford.

``The document has common sense language included in it that provides for contingencies if some deadline can't be met,'' Pagani said. ``Anything in the document can be changed by mutual consent.''

But the document states that if the state has not made sufficient progress addressing the relocation of the steam plant, the timing of the project, and its overall cost by the new April 2 deadline, the team ``in its sole and absolute discretion . . . may terminate this agreement.'' Mutual consent is not needed to kill the deal, the agreement says.


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