The Malden Stadium and Athletic Field Commission unanimously approved a deal Thursday to lease Macdonald Stadium to a start-up spring league football team and allow the sale of beer during games.
The Boston Freedom Fighters of the National Spring Football League will play six home games in Malden starting in March. The team will be coached by a crew of ex-New England Patriots, led by head coach Patrick Pass. It is owned by Malden native William Spadafora.
The contract had been in negotiations for months, with the sale of alcohol and questions over impact of the nearby residents being the sticking points, commission chairman Dan Keefe said.
The agreement allows the team to serve up to three beers per patron during games, a compromise between the team and commission reached Wednesday, Keefe said. Commission members said limiting service to three drinks will help preserve a family environment and keep patrons within the law, Keefe said.
"That's the legal limit - one per hour," Keefe said.
Patrons who are over 21 will receive a wrist ban at the start of the game, which will be punched each time they purchase a beer. Sales will end at the conclusion of the third quarter.
The approval of the deal came over objections from Ward 2 City Counciorl Steven Ultrino, who said the residents of his ward -- the stadium is located on Pearl Street in Ward 2 -- should have a chance to hear the plans and weigh in at a public hearing before the commission votes.
"It's a kick in the behind to the residents of Ward 2," Ultrino said.
Ultrino said he would support the team if the deal was approved, though he didn't support the sale of beer.
"I'll be at the games, I won't buy beer, out of protest, but I'll be at the games," he said.
Roberto Di Marco, a lawyer for the league, said the team needed the stadium deal done.
"We're playing against windows of time," he said."...If we don't move forward on the contract, we're stuck."
Part of the agreement calls for Pearl Street to be blocked off to anyone other than residents of the neighborhood, and a ban on non-resident game day parking. DiMarco and commission members said a public hearing could be held in coming weeks, and that adjustments to the parking and street closure measures could be made.
Mayor Gary Christenson voiced his support for the proposal, commending the commission for reaching a compromise before other communities were considered for the team. He called the agreement a risk worth taking.
"If we don't, we'll never know, but I can assure you this: Someone around us will," he said.
Spadafora said he was excited by the outcome of Thursday's vote, and offered assurances that he would protect the neighboring community.
"I will do my best to make sure this neighborhood is protected," he said. "I was born and raised in this neighborhood."
The Freedom Fighters will pay the city $2,000 per game, Keefe said. The team will be slotted for up to three practice times at the stadium per week, contingent on use by youth organizations.
The first game is schedule for March 23.