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Word came out last week that the New England Revolution were back in talks with Revere about building a stadium at the old Wonderland Dog Track, and Brian Bilello lent some credence to the news. Is it a workable solution for the Revs?
News of particular interest to New England Revolution fans broke last week when the Revere Journal reported that talks concerning the development at Wonderland were in an advanced stage, and featured possible plans for a soccer stadium. Specifically, those plans could be for a "15,000-seat soccer stadium with accompanying parking."
Afterwards, Brian Bilello was the guest on MLS Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" series, where he was asked about the report. Typically, he was vague and evasive on the point, something that he has long stressed is due to the fact that a lot of this information is not a matter of public record and to make it so would be a major obstacle to getting a stadium deal done. He was able to say the following:
"On the stadium project, I can't really go on record until certain public officials are on record. Who that is can vary by city (sorry for being evasive here). That being said we are in active discussions with multiple cities and I think Revere is a great city where a soccer stadium would very beneficial for all parties (us and the city)."
As far as the capacity goes, he was also able to clarify an important point: "we would target 18-22k, 15 is not accurate."
The former Wonderland Dog Track property is a location that's been floated around as a possible destination for a Revolution stadium for a while now. As mentioned in the article, Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo indicated that low-level talks with the Krafts had been in place for more than a year. This, along with the previously-rumored Somerville location, has seemed to be among the strongest and most likely candidates for a stadium site.
The fact that there's a casino proposal near that site at Suffolk Downs adds an interesting wrinkle. The article indicates that the stadium deal seems to go hand-in-hand with the casino proposal; conceivably, a partnership between the proposed owners of the casino and the Revolution could make this happen, creating a sort of Patriot Place-esque development near the Revs' stadium.
Robert Kraft was involved in attempting to bring a casino to Foxboro, an effort which he scrapped in May due to lack of community support. While Caesar's Entertainment appears to be the company looking to partner with Revere and East Boston, would it necessarily be out of the realm of possibility for the Kraft Group to bring in their original Vegas partners and try to steal away the casino deal? This is base speculation, but there appear to be a number of variable parts that could be working in the organization's favor right now.
Wonderland would be a good location for a number of reasons. For one, its unique position of straddling Revere and East Boston keeps it really, really close to the urban core in Boston, something that most people feel to be invaluable to a successful stadium effort. Secondly, there is a Wonderland stop on the MBTA's Blue Line. A stadium at the location of the old dog drack would place a Revolution stadium across the street from a subway stop. Accessibility, perhaps more than anything else, has been an essential element in location considerations for a stadium.
Also, it's location nearby to a larger entertainment complex - like a casino - would be another big win, as it creates almost a one-stop resort shop that includes Revolution matches. Plus, with the casino project slated to eventually include a hotel, it would be easy for fans from more remote areas of New England, or away fans, to attend games.
The cons are less numerous, but still significant. Traffic is one. Apparently, Revere has been dealing with severe traffic issues in that area for some time. In the Revere Journal article, city councilors cited traffic concerns as an enormous part of the decision-making process. Another roadblock, one which is related to the traffic issue, is opposition from Revere elected officials. The article cited at least two councilors who were seemingly opposed to the idea of having a Revolution stadium at Wonderland.
Of course, the alternative postulated by two of the councilors would be a retail/commercial outlet development similar to the outlets in Maine. In a day and age where retail has suffered, apparently some of these councilors still believe in strip malls as a worthy investment. Perhaps that sort of development would actually be successful, but given the proximity of the Wrentham outlets, it seems less likely.
The traffic issue is more realistic, but crying foul about that also seems ridiculous. First of all, traffic is barely an issue now in Foxboro for Revolution games, on Route One, no less; the stadium's location on a non-major highway with few traffic outlets has always caused consternation amongst locals and attendees alike for Patriots games, yet for Revolution matches the traffic is minimally problematic.
Secondly, wouldn't any development in that area drum up more traffic? Would not any economic development in that area require a total overhaul of the road systems? A casino, for example, would generate far more traffic on a far more consistent basis than a soccer stadium. Even an outlet complex would increase traffic volume.
Either way, it does look as though things have escalated, which could bode very well for the Revolution going forward. In that Reddit Q&A, Bilello targeted 2015 or 2016 as the year for the Revs to be playing in a new stadium. Having talks at this stage puts them on that track.
Of course, pessimists could always agree with the comment of redditor Dools:
"Also that stadium "news" only seems to spring up around season ticket renewal time."
H/T to @chiieddy for reminding me that Suffolk Downs and Wonderland aren't the same place. Edited.