Friday, April 15, 2011

New Stadium for Revolution in Boston?

This isn't another rant about how New England Revolution (and Patriots) owner, Robert Kraft, should build a soccer-specific stadium in Boston-proper or get out of the MLS business altogether. Those rants usually include talk of Mr. Kraft forking over all the money for the stadium on his own, taking a gamble on sell-out crowds in a market that hasn't taken to MLS that well in the last decade. Gillette is a great stadium, and what Mr. Kraft has done with Patriot Place surrounding the stadium has turned a cow pasture on Route 1 in Foxboro into a entertainment destination. We at "The Scoring Third" find joy in applying our engineering degrees to provide real-world solutions to stadium problems in MLS (see Manhattan MLS Stadium article). So here's our pitch Mr. Kraft, build a temporary soccer specific stadium in Boston and test the waters for a permanent facility.
 
Empire Field, Vancouver, British Columbia
The Vancouver Whitecaps are playing the first half of this season in a "temporary" stadium at Empire Field out of necessity since BC Place is being renovated with a retractable roof. Although Empire is lacking in luxury suites and other amenities, the sight lines and seating areas look fantastic on television and work great as a short-term home. We are proposing a similar situation for the Revolution, a temporary "summer" stadium in the city where Mr. Kraft can see what the response is to having the team closer to its fan base. So where would the stadium be located?

Empire Field Layout in South Boston
We took time over the course of the day to use the City of Boston's Global Information Systems (GIS) database to see what land is owned by the city in the metro area and was large enough to accommodate a stadium. Although both Boston Common and Storrow Drive Parks offer great landscapes for a stadium, there are too many special interests groups that have a say in what takes place in those areas. Frankly, a stadium would take away from those parks, not add to them. We pushed on to other parts of the city and that's when we stumbled upon the recent hot-bed for development, South Boston. In the last decade "Southie" has seen the addition of the massive convention center, a number of hotels, and new eateries along the piers. The area we are targeting for the temporary stadium is the parking lot directly behind the south end of the convention center, bordered by South Boston Bypass, Cypher, and Bullock Streets. The city owns the convention center and a number of the parking areas around it, so a deal could be stuck up with Mayor Menino to lease the space for the summer. There are additional aspects that support this location such as public transportation. The Broadway stop for the Red Line and the World Trade Center stop for the Silver Line are both within 5 blocks of the proposed stadium location. Both of those lines are one-stop from South Station which would allow for fans to take commuter lines into the city and then ride the "T" just one stop for the match; a lot easier than driving all the way out to Foxboro. Additionally, the convention center already has a dedicated substation for high voltage power to feed the needs of exhibitors, this could be tapped to power field lighting and scoreboards for the stadium. Lastly, even though public transportation is the big selling point of being in the metro area, the convention center has no less than a half a dozen large parking lots that would still be available for those wishing to drive in or tailgate. Also the close proximity of I-93 and I-90 make this location very friendly for those traveling by car, minus the typical Boston traffic of course. About the only negative of this location is it's proximity to Logan International Airport which could cause a similar situation to BMO Field in Toronto where the roar of aircraft can be heard during matches.

So that's our pitch to you Mr. Kraft (and Mr. Menino), what do you think? Although I doubt we will be hearing from the Revolution, we want to hear from you, especially our Boston followers. What do you think about the idea of a temporary stadium?

11 comments :

  1. this is great! Bring soccer to Downtown Beantown!

    Hearing that there's a possible expansion to the Convention Center coming up; lots of scuttlebutt about putting the Revs in Somerville, where there's a bit more space, but less on the public transportation front... I'd love to see something like this done for that area.

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  2. The BCEC is owned by the State, not the city. Plans are already underway for an expansion of the BCEC into the south lot. I have a very intimate knowledge of the site and the inner workings of the BCEC and can tell you that they are not interested in this type of an arrangement.

    South Boston was already once a target of Kraft for a new home for the Patriots and it did not go well and Menino and the Krafts have not gotten along since.

    The most realistic option at this point is the site occupied my the former dog track Wonderland, in Revere.

    The biggest problem in building a stadium for the Revs is land acquisition, if the land can be acquired for a temp stadium it makes more sense to build a permanent home. Building a temporary as a litmus test has too many variables and no drive to make sure it is successful. I shudder to think what might happen if a temporary stadium dd not succeed.

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  3. So basically, what you did is replicate what I did with Highbury on the Common... only with Empire Field and the parking lots set for development of the BCEC? interesting...

    There are two main troubles with this...

    1) You can find MANY viable spots around the city that; are large enough to fit a SSS, are within a few blocks of rapid transit, have ample parking nearby, and have plenty of access to power/communication cables.

    Those site selections tend to break down to a few main categories -- rennovating existing small stadiums within the city, redevelop a depressed or vacated site formerly developed for other purposes, or new construction within the limits of existing park space that contains recreational athletic fields.

    While each of those spots could work, they all have major infuential detractors to the success of the project, come at a great cost, and are often already set for development by people willing to sink in more capital, time, and effort than Kraft is.

    Yes, you have selected a lot, here, but you havent solved any of the problems that even you suggest are impending obstacles to the success of the project.

    The only semi-orginal topic is the idea of it being temporary to cut costs/liability, but, why go through the effort, if you werent fully behind the idea? That suggestion gains no advantage over building a staged permanent stadium (as cost and support allows)... which has already been suggested.

    In order for ANY of the proposed stadium projects to go through, we would need;
    - Serious involvement by the Krafts
    - Some other form of recoupable capital to assist the Krafts
    - The ability to make major infrastructure changes
    - Popular support of a local voting public

    So, unless you are a major benefactor of large scale construction projects, or the Krafts theselves, the best approach isn't to work on finding a specific project site to propose, what makes the most sense is to work on organizing a diehard active grassroot support for building a stadium for the Revolution in an urban setting WHEREVER it would end up getting built, so that it would encourage the Krafts to seek out other investment capital, and local legislatures to want to assist in that process. I, for one, would be glad to actively participate in that. However, until we could display upwards of 150K people fully active in participation, in order to encourage that process, this is going nowhere.


    2) While I have been a HUGE proponent of building a stadium in downtown Boston (so much that I was willing to go to battle to have it built on Boston Common), with the colapse of the economy, Kraft is less likely to spend any money on the risk of a stadium, and the fans in the inner city have less disposable income to fill a stadium should it be built.

    Despite my dislike of marketing the sport to the SUV youth soccer mom types... It is just that type of target audience who have been the reason the Revs have stayed afloat. They live nearby Gillette, want some form of family friendly entertaining without having to drive into the city, and have the disposable income to attend multiple sporting events. I, who live in the inner city, and who wants an urban stadium, do not.

    We need to realize, as much as we want a stadium built in the city, we also have to be thankful that Kraft, the owner, who puts his neck out on the line keeping the team in existence, has a stadium at all. There is essentially no hope of a publically financed project in the near future. Kraft would have to assume all the risk, and the economy is such that taking risks, isn't all that encouraged. Kraft hasn't gotten to where he is by taking such uncalculated risks.

    For now, it actually just makes sense, to keep Kraft's team, in place in Kraft's stadium, with the Rev's current fan base supporting the team, in place supporting the team... so it can remain operating successfully.

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  4. Love the idea. I like going to Foxboro for a game but Boston is just as close (Framingham) but I could plan other city things around game visits which would be great. Absolutely worth paying the tolls for...

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  5. Brian - Great information. You are correct, the BCEC is owned by the State and not the City.

    Anonymous (You know who you are) - Great points as well about the steps necessary to get the stadium. I agree, Mr. Kraft has hung his neck out there for the team since 1996 and has lost money year after year, believe me, he's not the bad guy in this situation. He has been a positive advocate for soccer for decades, along with his son. The bottom line is that there is only so much available land in Boston-proper. Boston Common is out of the question, that's like suggesting concerts be held at Fenway (oh wait). Southie has the most open land, but it Rail Yard site in Sommerville is better if a deal can be worked out.

    Everyone - I really appreciate the comments because this topic should be an open discussion to come up with solutions. Fan support drives MLS teams, just look at the Sons of Ben getting a team from a grass-roots campaign. Hopefully in the seasons to come the Revs can get the fan backing they deserve. Keep the comments coming and thanks for following "The Scoring Third"! Don't forget to check us out on Twitter (@scoringthird) and on Facebook.

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  6. This club needs to be in Boston and to rebrand. Kraft shows that he has a low football, eh, soccer ,IQ when he gets involved in MLS. 20,000 seater and getting the club to recognize Boston's Irish heritage would fix the Revs mess and give New England a proper football, sorry, soccer club.

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  7. If Somerville/cam/bost line wont work for Revs SSS, how about near Air/Denvens or Chelsea, pleanty of room for economic growth and room for infrustructure and jobs needed.

    Rev Fan, but sorry Mr. kraft cant make it to Foxboro :(

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  8. Soccer and MLS are being force fed to an American public that just doesn't care enough about the sport. This league and these stadiums will undoubtedly fail like the NASL did in the early 80's.

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  9. your just an unintelligent person who needs more knowledge about the most played sport in the world and maybe it is time for America to give an inch in this respect.

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  10. Soccer needs to be marketed as a fast paced, hard-hitting fluid sport that true Boston hockey fans would get off on.

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  11. Soccer needs to be sold to Boston's hard core Bruins fans as a fast-paced, passionate, hard-hitting and fluid summer compliment to their beloved game.

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