Monday, May 21, 2007

Patriot Place no place for Revs

All you need to know about the potential for a soccer specific stadium being built on Robert Kraft-owned land in Foxboro is contained within Jenn Abelson’s May 20th Boston Globe article on Kraft’s Patriot Place complex, which is currently under construction. The feature on Kraft's bold plans for retail store glory along Route 1 contains 1,482 words, and not one of them is “soccer.”

In a nutshell, the article states that Kraft is doling out $350 million of his own money to invest in the ambitious Patriot Place complex, which will include numerous retail stores, hotels, a cineplex, and the much-talked about Patriots Museum. With construction well underway along Route 1 in Foxboro, the first part of the project is scheduled to be completed in late 2007, with another phase set to be finished by late 2008.

Not mentioned or included in any proposed layout of the project is the SSS that so many Revolution fans have clamored for in recent years, after watching other clubs build such sparkling new structures themselves. While seven of MLS’s thirteen clubs currently utilize such SSS’s, the Revolution is well behind the curve, without a single sketch or rendering of what a Revolution SSS would entail.

Of course, why would the Revs build a new home when they already play in a state of the art stadium? Essentially, this is the line that Kraft Sports is feeding to their fans by promoting the Patriot Place project without plans of a SSS included in the complex.

Commissioner Don Garber, beware: Kraft Sports has no real interest in building a SSS in Foxboro, Framingham or Falmouth anytime soon. Kraft himself has only mentioned building such a structure in passing, without any real figures, location, or timetable for the construction of one. This could change, though; Kraft may soon re-release an updated rendering of Patriot Place with a shiny new SSS included, thus earning the praise of regional soccer fans and flying pigs alike.

The bitter reality is that there will be no SSS for the Revs unless something drastic, like an ownership change or flux in philosophy occurs. The bottom line, as far as Kraft Sports is concerned, is that Revs have a home - even if it is an NFL stadium that has all of the charm of an abandoned parking garage.

Rest assured, Commissioner Garber cannot be pleased at a Kraft land development without a single word being uttered about soccer. Last summer, Gerber became an outspoken proponent of securing an SSS in the Boston area for the Revs, as he emphasized the need for such SSS’s around the league as a tangible sign of long-term growth for professional soccer. However, since then, there has been little discussion regarding any proposal to build such a stadium, and the only real talk of an SSS seems to be limited to fans and media.

Call me na├»ve, but I do believe that Kraft would indeed like to build a SSS for his “other” football team, as he has stated in the past. In fact, it was reported that he traveled to Germany prior to last year’s World Cup in an effort to research the idea of building an SSS for the Revs. But it’s quite clear that his ambitions presently lie elsewhere, in a land filled with acres of Victoria’s Secret, Bass Pro Shops, and Christmas Tree Shops.

Time is clearly not on the side of the Revs. It is only a matter of time before the league acts on Kraft’s indifference toward building a SSS for the Revs. MLS may pressure him to sell his club to a prospective buyer – a buyer more than willing to move the club and build an SSS outside of New England. Should this come to pass, Revs fans may have to travel to Philadelphia, St. Louis, or Cleveland – all venues where SSS’s are rumored to be built in the coming years – to watch their displaced soccer heroes. Sadly, the Revs may just become this generation’s New England Tea Men, the former NASL squad that relocated many miles away to Jacksonville, FL in the early-1980’s, leaving regional soccer fans without a top-tier club to root for once again.

In any event, the lack of firm plans to build a SSS by Kraft Sport at such an opportune time, as a large-scale construction project takes place on Kraft-owned land should be troubling to any Revolution fan. For if Kraft is unwilling to build a new home for his soccer team now, when will he?

Kraft stated in Abelson’s article, that in the construction of Patriot Place, he is essentially “betting on the future of New England.”

Evidently, that very future does not include the long-term stability of top-tier professional soccer in New England that the construction of an SSS would surely bring.

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