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Patriots unveil new stadium plan, providing a new hope

By Joe Burris, Globe Staff, 04/19/2000

The Patriots yesterday unveiled their plans for a new stadium, and anyone who attended the presentation could see the state-of-the-art 68,000-seat facility will be a vast improvement over the 30-year-old structure the team currently occupies.

Officials appear to have addressed in the new stadium areas of concern that make the Foxboro Stadium experience a test in patience.

The $325 million privately financed facility will include individual seats throughout (as opposed to bleachers in many areas of the current stadium), fully distributed stadium sound, and 900 additional television monitors.

It also will have 80 luxury suites, 120,000 square feet of club-lounge space to be used year-round, and three times as many concession areas (350) and restrooms (60) as Foxboro Stadium.

Among the things the $70 million state-financed infrastructure package will include are 3,000 additional parking spaces, a new access road along Route 1, and pedestrian tunnels to alleviate congestion.

All of this will be done, according to owner Robert Kraft's representative, vice president Jonathan Kraft, without a major increase in ticket prices and without the use of personal seating licenses.

It is not known what the stadium will be named, but one thing's for certain: The current name will be replaced. In keeping with the trend in professional sports, the Patriots will sell naming rights to the stadium.

The Globe has reported the team has had discussions with Monster.com, an Internet company based in Maynard.

"We have to name the stadium; that's part of our financing package and part of being able to build the stadium privately," said Kraft. "We don't want to put a time frame on [selling naming rights]."

But that appears to be among the few uncertainties associated with the stadium. Ground clearing already has begun.

"Over the course of the next several months, you'll see the ground-breaking of the foundation, and construction will begin later this summer," said Kraft. "You'll start seeing the skeletal structure toward the tail end of the football season.

"Interior construction will begin next winter, and we will also begin working on the playing field itself because the playing field needs to be ready in time for the spring opener for [New England Revolution] soccer.

"That opening will be a soft opening, because the entire facility won't be built, but the lower bowl and the field will be ready for action, and we will have a full stadium opening the summer of 2002."

There are still some possible roadblocks: namely, the people in trailer parks set upon the property - owned by the Krafts - that will be used for the stadium. About 25 trailers are still on the site.

But Patriots officials said because the Kraft family is financing most of the project, they do not anticipate cost fiascos similar to the Big Dig.

"The way the infrastructure was set up, the budget is basically from the legislature to the project," said Andy Wasynczuk, vice president of business operations.

"The only portion the state is going to be spending the money on . . . is on Route 1, through the Massachusetts Highway Department.

"The other portion is going to be booked through us and we get reimbursed for it as the project continues. We've worked our contract with the builder to basically say, `This is the scope of the work. Here's what needs to be done.' We know the price is not going to exceed what they've basically quoted."

The concept was produced by HOK Architectural Design, which also designed Camden Yards in Baltimore, Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., and the new Cleveland Browns Stadium.

It will be built by Beacon/ Skanska, which also built Rowes Wharf downtown and Atlanta Olympic Stadium, and Barton Malow, which built Camden Yards and Coors Field in Denver. The latter company also will handle the infrastructure portion of the project.

"As we think about the [$325 million] number, it's a big number to swallow," said Kraft. "At the same time, it's very important to us that this stadium be a great legacy for our family and for our teams as well as football and soccer fans."

In addition to the amenities enjoyed by fans, the players' strength and conditioning facilities will be triple the size (8,000 square feet) of the current facility. Ditto the 10,000 square feet of coaching and meeting rooms.

The site also will contain three practice fields.

Among those in attendance yesterday were several veteran Patriots, who welcome a change from facilities they say pale in comparison to those of some high schools.

"To see this finally come to fruition and how pretty it's going to be is really exciting," said quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who said he was disheartened by the team's intentions to move to Connecticut a couple of years ago.

"It's kind of embarrassing to have people come into our stadium and see what we live and practice in," Bledsoe added, "because, honestly, there are high schools that have better facilities than what we've been in the last 25 years.

"As a player, I'm excited about the new place and I hope I'm the one who gets to press the button to blow up the old place."

Robert Kraft was not in attendance because of the death of his mother Sunday. "He's spending the day with family," said Jonathan Kraft. "He very much looks forward to celebrating the ground-breaking of the stadium this summer in Foxborough."

One of the facets of the existing stadium that will carry over into the new facility is general seating capacity (60,000).

"The reason for doing that, and not jumping up to 80,000 like other people, is that we want to keep the stadium intimate," said Kraft.

"The other thing we've done that duplicates [Foxboro Stadium] is that we've put 85 percent of the seats on the sidelines. There are very few end-zone seats. And also, we've angled every seat toward the 50-yard line."

They've also added a New England ambiance to the architecture - a pedestrian bridge and a lighthouse - although the lighthouse looks more like a giant hollow lipstick tube with an antenna sticking out the top.

Fans will get the full effect at night.

"Our first `Monday Night Football' game is something we are incredibly excited about," said Kraft. "The lighthouse will shoot a cannon of light into the sky that will go up a few miles."

© Copyright 2002 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing Inc.

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