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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

Whither Foxboro

Town, state officials starting to grapple with how to fill fiscal void after Pats leave

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 12/19/98

Now that Connecticut lawmakers have approved a new $375 million stadium for the New England Patriots, state and local leaders there say the team's move will help Hartford shrug off its nickname as ``The Filing Cabinet of America.''

But Hartford's gain will be Foxborough's loss. And Massachusetts officials are only now beginning to grapple with the fallout.

The biggest question: What will happen to Foxboro Stadium -- and the state and local revenues it generates -- once the Patriots move to Hartford?

Guesses as to the future of the site include everything from an office park to a NASCAR speedway.

Team owner Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan do not have definite plans for the roughly 300 acres the family owns at Foxborough. And, they point out, until Connecticut builds the new open-air stadium in Hartford, the Patriots will continue playing there.

``Connecticut lawmakers just voted to build a new stadium and right now we're focused on finalizing the development deal to make that happen,'' said Jonathan Kraft. ``So we haven't got any firm plans for doing anything other than play football in Foxboro right now.''

But industry sources say given the size of their holdings, the Krafts are more likely to develop the property than sell it.

State and local officials suggest the Krafts could build a new office park or light industrial facility on the site. The property includes a cargo rail link, which on game days is now transformed into commuter rail service.

A new mall won't work, unless Foxborough changes its current zoning regulations. But there's also talk of transforming the stadium into a NASCAR speedway to rival the track in Loudon, N.H., or a family entertainment facility.

And as the only open air stadium available in Massachusetts for large rock tours such as the Rolling Stones and U2, Foxboro Stadium is likely to continue hosting large entertainment events, at least for the next few years.

But industry sources say the 27-year-old stadium is badly in need of repairs, which could cost $20 million. Plus it's estimated the Krafts spend another $4 million to $5 million a year to operate the aging stadium.

Some state and local officials are worried about whether the Krafts will continue pouring money into an aging facility if more activity isn't relocated to the site.

To ensure the property continues to generate taxes after the Patriots move to Hartford, Governor Paul Cellucci has pledged to help Kraft redevelop Foxboro Stadium.

Cellucci, who unsuccessfully pressed for a new taxpayer-funded stadium for the Patriots in Massachusetts, said the state should pick up the tab for any infrastructure improvements needed to redevelop Foxboro.

``That's a big tract of land,'' Cellucci said. ``We want to be sure it continues to be generate the economic activity.''

House Speaker Thomas Finneran has vehemently opposed Cellucci's plan to use taxpayer funding to assist the Patriots, and a less generous plan proposed by Senate President Thomas Birmingham. It remains unclear whether Finneran will agree to any legislation aimed at helping Kraft redevelop the site. Finneran was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But the state routinely pays for infrastructure improvements to attract or retain businesses. ``I think the speaker objected to state funds going to the stadium,'' Cellucci said. ``I don't think Finneran has a problem with infrastructure assistance.''

The Patriots have played at Foxboro Stadium for 25 years. And since the Hartford site requires environmental clean up before construction of a stadium can begin, the Patriots will keep playing at Foxboro for at least another two or three years.

The town of Foxborough owns the land on which the stadium sits, while the Krafts own roughly 300 acres surrounding it. Foxborough, a suburb with a population of about 16,000, now receives about $600,000 a year in revenues generated by a surcharge on Patriots tickets. And local nonprofits earn roughly half a million dollars a year through parking and concessions at the stadium.

But that money will disappear once the team moves to Connecticut.

``It's going to hurt us a lot,'' Foxborough selectman Michael Coppola said yesterday. ``For example, money generated by the ticket surcharge funds the equivalent of half our police budget each year. So you can see the team's move to Connecticut will really blow a big hole in our operating budget.''

One thing is definite at this point. Even after the Patriots leave, Foxboro Stadium will still be home to the New England Revolution, the professional soccer team owned by Kraft.

``The Revolution will continue playing in Foxboro Stadium indefinitely,'' Jonathan Kraft said yesterday. ``And we'll be talking with local and state officials about what kind of things might help generate economic activity after the Patriots leave.''

Roughly 19,000 fans come to Foxboro to watch soccer, compared to the 60,000 who attend sell-out football games. Proceeds from the soccer ticket surcharge generate only about half of what the town gains from the football surcharge.

Foxborough officials, however, say they are encouraged by the fact that attendance at Revolution soccer games has increased every year.

All content herein is Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company and may not be republished without permission. If you have questions or comments about the archives, please contact us at any time.


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