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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

Hartford steam plant defends its moving cost

By Tina Cassidy, Globe Staff, March 19, 1999

HARTFORD -- It all boils down to . . . a steam plant.

Stung by criticism that it is holding out for an unreasonable price, a steam plant company distributed copies of its property assessment as proof it needs about $48 million to cover the costs of relocating its Hartford headquarters to make way for a new stadium for the New England Patriots.

But local business leaders, though eager to bring the team here, said they are willing to contribute no more than $25 million to move the offices of CTG Resources Inc.

After two days of terse recriminations between Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland and CTG's chief executive, Arthur Marquardt, the two sides were no closer to bridging the funding gap -- or to resolving a related dispute over terms of moving the plant. Failure to do so could kill the stadium deal.

While that prospect has caught the attention of Massachusetts political leaders, key players in last year's efforts to keep the team in Foxborough said that for now they are watching from the sidelines.

Marquardt, at a press conference in the company's nondescript concrete offices, suggested his shareholders would not pay the difference. And Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, doesn't want to pay for it either, according to people close to the situation.

In the absence of other businesses stepping up with money, that would leave Nutmeg State taxpayers, many of whom are unhappy that public money would finance construction of the $374 million stadium along the Connecticut River.

``They will not be asked,'' said Rowland spokesman Dean Pagani. ``The governor has made clear there's no more state money to be put on the table; $374 million is enough.''

That money was approved by the General Assembly in December to build the Patriots a new home. But in the rush to get the deal done, Rowland did not set aside funds to relocate CTG's building. And agreement on a plan to cover the estimated cost of $47 million to $60 million to move the steam plant, which sits on what would be the stadium's field, is being held up by what Rowland has called unreasonable demands by CTG.

The negotiations are being further strained by an April 2 deadline by which the state must prove three things to Kraft: That the steam plant can be moved in time for stadium construction to begin by the summer of 2000; that the team will not be liable for environmental damage on the site; and that there is ample funding and planning to allow parking lots around the football field to empty in one hour after games.

Increasingly wary of the time frame, officials have been trying to downplay that deadline in recent days. According to the agreement between the team and the state, there is a 30-day window beyond April 2 for Kraft to decide if he wants to continue pursuing a Hartford stadium.

A Patriots spokesman had no comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, in Boston, spokeswomen for Governor Paul Cellucci and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham said the leaders are closely watching Hartford events, but could do little other than refile bills that died last year offering up to $72 million in land and infrastructure aid for the team to rebuild in Foxborough.

And House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, whose fierce opposition to public funding for a stadium prevented a deal in the team's home state, remained immutable yesterday. ``I don't sense that there has been any shift at all,'' Finneran said. ``The Senate bill was dreadful in the view of most members, and it set us on a path that could not be sustained or justified. The precedents attached to that one were staggering.''

Finneran has refiled his own bill, offering $57 million strictly for improvements to infrastructure along Route 1 in Foxborough, even though Kraft said that legislation was not enough to keep the team in Massachusetts.

Finneran's political foil, Rowland, may be paying a price for his enthusiasm to lure the Patriots to Hartford as part of a $1 billion urban revitalization project.

Yesterday, a soft-spoken Marquardt, standing next to a panel of architects and construction specialists who valued the office relocation at $48 million, said he was surprised the state was only now scrambling to cover the expense.

``If you want a project like this to work, you have to do the due diligence, do your homework, and make sure you have a funding mechanism. That was evidently not done, and it's not the fault of the people who happen to be working here,'' Marquardt said.


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