Beantown could soon be Soccertown.
Robert Kraft has been trying to move the home of the New England Revolution to Boston for years. Originally the Seaport District was targeted by the Revs. At one point, Kraft also explored building a new baseball stadium and convention center in Roxbury. But the efforts to build the projects were shot down as former Boston mayor Tom Menino long served as opposition toward Kraft’s plans.
Now there is a renewed campaign for a soccer stadium within city limits. Tuesday afternoon, The Boston Globe divulged that Kraft is once again exploring a controversial plan to build a new home for the Revolution in Boston.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) June 24, 2015
Built in the 1960’s, Bayside Expo Center originally opened as a shopping mall. It was eventually converted into a convention center as the years went on. With the construction of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston, The Expo Center no longer served much purpose and became foreclosed. UMass Boston bought the property in 2010 for $18.7 million and is currently in the process of demolishing the old complex.
The location is highly coveted. It sits right next the the John F. Kennedy Library and provides scenic views of Boston Harbor. It is also right next to the JFK UMass MBTA station. Bayside is considered to be inside Dorchester, but sits right on the edge of South Boston. During the push for the 2024 Olympics, Bayside was expected to be an integral part of the Olympic plan.
With the demolition of the old complex already underway, and the failed Boston 2024 bid, Robert Kraft and UMass officials have met for preliminary discussions to build a Revolution stadium at Bayside.
— Bill Forry (@BillForry) June 21, 2016
According to Bill Forry and Jennifer Smith of The Dorchester Reporter, multiple sources confirm that the Bayside site is being targeted as the next home of the New England Revolution. UMass spokesman Robert Connolly told the Boston Globe, “We’ve worked closely with the Kraft family in the past and have a shared desire to create new opportunities for our students and for the Commonwealth.”
During the push for Boston 2024, elected officials and members of the Dorchester/South Boston community felt left out of the conversation. Unfortunately those most affected by the prospects of a large project on the site of the Old Expo Center felt like they were blindsided when the discussions went public Tuesday afternoon.
State Representative Dan Hunt told the Reporter that if there was a conversation underway for a Revolution stadium at Bayside, elected officials have not been contacted or informed of the plans.
Congressman Stephen Lynch immediately asserted it was “a bad idea”.
“There have been earlier proposals to develop a soccer stadium in that area. Mainly in connection with the Olympics. However, then and now there is significant opposition because of the massive traffic choke point it would create in the Dorchester and South Boston neighborhoods. The situation is getting progressively worse as the South Boston waterfront development has greatly increased the volume of traffic along the Morrissey Boulevard corridor. So basically it’s a bad idea.”
State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry was also aggravated by the lack of community outreach in regards to the potential stadium. Forry compared the situation to Boston 2024 and added, “The community was put on the back burner. We will not allow Dorchester to be put on the back burner.”
These comments come after the failure of IndyCar Boston, a race that Marty Walsh was fully on board for. After the race organizers failed to deliver certain demands the city required. Those who bought tickets to the race haven’t been refunded their tickets. The city is also suing race organizers for $1.5 million due to breach of contract.
The idea of a revolution stadium sounds skeptical for two communities that have witnessed the failure of Boston 2024 and IndyCar in the past year.
Local reactions have been mixed since the prospects of a Revs stadium went public.
Coincidentally I am walking right by Kosciuszko Cir (but bypassing b/c crossing as a pedestrian is a death wish) pic.twitter.com/X7yuYURcPy
— Lauren Dezenski (@LaurenDezenski) June 21, 2016
Some agree with the local politicians, confirming that the area cannot handle the amount of fans and supporters that would flood the area for Revolution matches.
Others believe that the construction of a stadium may lead to increased traffic for local businesses and cite it as a perfect location with direct access to the highway and MBTA.
Unfortunately for Kraft and the Revs, the Bayside location is currently not able to handle the stress of a major league soccer stadium. The Kosciuszko Rotary is already overwhelmed with the volume of traffic it experiences on a day-to-day basis. Some commuters refer to the traffic circle as the “devil rotary.”
“To say traffic and safety issues at Kosciuszko Circle are at a crisis level would be an understatement,” said Massachusetts state representative Nick Collins in October,
The Rotary provides handles traffic bound for several areas of the city. It was built in the 1920’s, never designed to handle the traffic that passes through in 2016. Collins went on to explain that he believes the failed Olympic bid acted as “a catalyst for important conversations we desperately need to continue” to restructure areas of the cities’ roadways.
When Boston 2024 was originally in it’s infancy, the prospects of reconstructing the gridlocked JFK UMass area was one of the most prominent features of the plan. If Kraft can win over the local community and promise to improve the surrounding infrastructure, the idea of building the stadium could gain traction.
Without improvements to the roadways and area, it would be simply irresponsible and frankly impossible to host a stadium at the Bayside location.
— Caught in Southie (@maureencaught) February 17, 2016
Unfortunately for the Revolution, they continue to play in Gillette Stadium which is far too large for the franchise. In 2014, Jonathan Kraft and discussed the state of the Revs.
“I think that the sport is definitely on an upward trajectory, and I think there’s no question that it’s growing in relevance and interest,” Kraft said on sports radio 98.5’s “Felger and Mazz” show.
The Revolution have seen their average attendance grow by 25 percent this past year, still nowhere close to filling the extremely large Gillette Stadium.
Jonathan Kraft expressed his optimism that new Boston Mayor Marty Walsh would be more receptive to the proposition of bringing the team to Boston. “I think Mayor Walsh believes in the sport and understands the impact it could have on the city beyond just the sport but what you can do with the use of the city and cultural events,” Kraft said. “Hopefully we’ll see if become a reality in the near future.”
Kraft was also critical of Menino’s stance, “Unfortunately, I don’t think this was something Mayor Menino saw the value in, and it didn’t get a lot of attention.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has a completely different tone when it comes to bringing the Revs to Boston:
“I would love to see the Revolution come to the city,” Walsh said.
— Michael Alssid (@MikeAlssid) February 25, 2016
It’s important to remember that these are only preliminary discussions of building on the site. The local community will need to be wooed by the Krafts, and likely promise the much needed improvements to local infrastructure before starting construction.
The Revolution will move at some point in their future, but to where? It will almost definitely be inside or close to Boston. If the Kraft family wishes to build at Bayside, local citizens and taxpayers will probably only support the project if it is financed privately. A privately financed stadium would undoubtedly increase support for construction of the new Revs home pitch.
This past August, the Kraft family hired investment banking giant Goldman Sachs to help finance a potential stadium in Boston. The same financial group helped build the wildly successful Gillette Stadium. Goldman Sachs also has experience working with European soccer clubs.
— BostInno (@BostInno) June 23, 2014
“I think with the Revolution, soccer’s a growing sport,” Walsh said. “More and more people are playing it. More and more people are watching it. I’ve had conversations with the Kraft family about the possibility of bringing the Revolution to Boston. And I think people in Boston would enjoy it.”
With close proximity to an MBTA stop, interstate 93, and the city of Boston, a new Revs stadium would likely be tremendously successful at the site of Bayside Expo Center. But there is still much work to do in order to win over both the community and local politicians. The most important step would be actually reaching out to the community and local politicians including them in the proposition of a new stadium.
If the local community is not included in the process, it’s likely that the Kraft’s plans for a stadium at Bayside would falter in similar fashion to the Olympic push for Boston 2024.