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Patriots anticipating fringe benefits from new stadium

By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff, 05/11/99

FOXBOROUGH -- The color of money is the same in Foxborough as it is in Hartford. It's just that in Hartford, there was almost an unlimited amount of it. But in Foxborough, where a $250 million stadium is scheduled to open by 2002 -- unless politics interferes -- there will be enough of it so that Patriots owner Robert Kraft won't be dipping into his personal fortune to pay signing bonuses to top players. That money will come from a revenue stream generated by luxury boxes and premium seating.

At least, that's the hope of Patriots officials.

Team vice president Andy Wasynczuk said that parts of recent signing bonuses given to Ted Johnson, Willie McGinest, Bruce Armstrong, and Chris Slade came directly out of Kraft's pockets.

A stadium deal in Hartford would have allowed Kraft to pay the bonuses out of an incredible revenue stream without the blink of an eye. Of course, even in Hartford, Kraft and the Patriots would have had an NFL salary cap to abide by. For cap purposes, signing bonuses are spread out over the length of the contract.

"The issue is, you want to have a competitive facility which allows you to come up with the cash needed to pay out the signing bonuses,'' said Wasynczuk. "We believe right now a new Foxboro [stadium] will do that. Of course, that all depends on the support from the business community.''

Wasynczuk was referring to businesses' willingness to commit to long-term leases on luxury boxes.

"A new stadium allows us to sustain a competitive advantage in the marketplace,'' he said. "As other teams have been building new facilities, they have gone ahead of us, and as teams build new stadiums across the country, we will now be able to be on par with them.''

Wasynczuk claims the poor facility in Foxborough has hindered the Patriots' ability to sign top free agents.

"Typically, guys weren't spelling out their reasons for not signing with the Patriots,'' said Wasynczuk, "but what we'd hear from our employees who would be giving those players a ride back to the airport is along the lines of, `My high school facility was better than this.' This was definitely an important component of trying to sign players.''

Patriots safety Willie Clay concurs. He said the two most important factors in whether a player signs in a certain spot are money and winning. But if those factors are equal, then the setting is the next biggest factor.

The Patriots currently have a terrible practice situation; players have to drive a few miles to the Wrentham State School.

Wasynczuk was part of the group that negotiated the Hartford deal, along with Patriots vice president and owner representative Jonathan Kraft. Kraft negotiated what many believed was the best deal in sports history, one that included the out clauses that the Patriots used when Connecticut wasn't able to deliver on a 2002 move-in date.

Wasynczuk is now helping finalize the architectural plans for the new Foxborough facility, which will be similar to the ones drawn up 18 months ago.

"The good news is we're not starting from ground zero,'' said Wasynczuk. "Those plans have been rekindled, but we're also re-looking at them to see what other needs we'd have right now. There's also the challenge of trying to build a stadium while we're playing football in the old one and all of the roblems that come along with that.''

Wasynczuk said the plans currently call for a 68,000-seat open-air venue with 100-125 luxury boxes and 6,000 club seats.

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