Metro, Column

Soccer, Mark Wahlberg, And Building A New Stadium in Boston

In October of 2013, ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown aired a segment about how New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s suite at Gillette Stadium has become Boston’s “most exclusive club.” Each Sunday, the billionaire Kraft invites “a gathering of the A-list” to his space, and guests frequently range from politicians to musicians to actors.

“Bob just does everything top-notch,” Mark Wahlberg said after spending an afternoon marveling at the wine and sauerbraten in the suite.

Now, the Krafts are at it again. The New England Revolution’s never-ending search for a stadium has hit a new checkpoint. Currently, the affluent family with an exerting influence in the city of Boston is “exploring” the possibility of building a new soccer stadium in Boston, according to The Boston Globe.

New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft is planning to build the new structure in South Boston to move the team out of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The Globe reported that the Kraft family is interested in an area in South Boston that is currently used for towed cars. According to the article, the Krafts are working with a five-year timeline in mind for securing a stadium site.

Who would pay for this stadium? After privately funding Gillette Stadium, the Krafts so far have not pledged to do the same for the soccer stadium, which could cost more than $100 million. At this point, it is unclear who would pay for the stadium, or if any public funding would be needed to support the project.

Finding a specific location for the stadium poses another set of problems, including the idea of a public bidding process for a limited amount of land in a crowded city. Securing a spot could be difficult for the Krafts, as the city is also considering locations for a homeless shelter for the thousands displaced after the Long Island bridge fiasco.

For those unfamiliar with the Krafts, the family is widely known for having a dominating presence in the city of Boston. Most notably, Bob Kraft is the Chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group, a diverse holding company with assets in paper and packaging, sports, and entertainment, and real estate development. Bob and his son Jonathan Kraft also own the New England Patriots, and are considered some of the best owners in American professional sports.

Now, just 20 years after its debut, Major League Soccer is booming in America. After fans marveled at U.S. goalie Tim Howard’s performance in the FIFA World Cup this summer, soccer in America has reached a point of unmatched popularity and expansion across the country—except in Boston. Considering the city’s sports obsession and the large population of young soccer fanatics in the city, a big change would be ideal to help the team get some attention in the MLS craze. Even Tom Brady’s dining choices get more scoop than the Revolution’s playoff games.

The Krafts and the team have been looking for the Revolution’s new home since 2006, as other MLS teams have moved into cutting-edge stadiums. Currently, the Revs play at the Patriot’s Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, a 45-minute drive from the city. The 68,756-seat stadium is considered by many to be too large for soccer crowds—typical attendance numbers reaching 30,000 seats are considered impressive in the MLS.

The Revolution averaged 16,681 fans per game last season, which is well below the average of 19,148 in the 19-team league. The team finished the season in second place with a 17-4-13 record, and defeated the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference semifinals over a week ago. The Kraft box was nearly empty during that time, completely devoid of the Mark Wahlbergs, Donald Trumps, and Pamela Andersons that typically frequent the stadium on Sundays. With a seemingly unnoticeable sport in a sports-town like Boston, now seems like a better time than ever for Bob Kraft and the MLS to build a stadium in the city.

Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphic

November 19, 2014