It’s hard to blame Revs fans for lapping up any morsel about a new soccer stadium that they can find.
After all, it has been exactly two years since plans to build one at the old Bayside Expo site in Dorchester imploded. The city tow lot, in the shadow of the Southeast Expressway, was once seen as a viable alternative; that option looks much less likely now.
The stadium quest has essentially gone dark as the New England Revolution continue to share cavernous Gillette Stadium with their more high-profile siblings, the Patriots.
But during a fan event last weekend, Revs team president Brian Bilello offered some reassurance that the hunt remains very much alive. Snippets from the event emerged on Twitter, including the mention of a new price tag. A spokesman confirmed that the Kraft Group is now willing to invest as much as $400 million in a roughly 20,000-seat soccer stadium. The location? Sorry, everyone. That remains a mystery.
Should this project happen, it now appears almost certain that it will eclipse Gillette in terms of construction costs.
Blame rising construction expenses. But don’t forget the Krafts’ desire to be in a high-profile location in or near Boston’s inner core. Real estate costs inevitably will be part of the equation.
Check out Allianz Field, newly opened in St. Paul. The home for the Minnesota United soccer team cost some $250 million, a figure more in line with what the Krafts wanted to spend in Dorchester. Maybe a fairer comparison can be found in high-cost Washington. D.C. United started playing in Audi Field last year in an open-air arena that cost an estimated $400 million, making it the most expensive Major League Soccer stadium so far.
Well, at least the Krafts have a new record to beat.
Victor Matheson, an economist at Holy Cross in Worcester, says $400 million seems steep. A major motivator for MLS teams to build new is to control their own venue, he says, and the corresponding revenue generated within. That newfound financial independence helps to justify the investment. But that’s obviously not a factor with the Krafts, because the Revs already play in a building they own.
Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist says he doubts the Krafts can recoup the cost of a $400 million stadium with just 18 Revs home games a year. But throw in concerts, other sporting events, and additional development? Maybe then the math starts to work.
The biggest variable the Krafts face, of course, is real estate. Mayor Marty Walsh last year moved to put the city’s 18-acre public works yard, a.k.a. the “tow lot,” on Frontage Road out to bid, but that process remains on hold. Assembly Row in Somerville is pretty much filled up with shops, offices, and apartments now. And developers are advancing plans for many of the previous other candidates — the Bayside, Suffolk Downs, Tremont Crossing, among them.
So why keep at it? The Krafts want to give Revs players and their fans a more intimate experience. They hope moving the games out of suburban Foxborough and into an urban setting can draw more attendees. There’s also the likelihood that World Cup events come to Massachusetts in 2026, when North America hosts soccer’s ultimate championship. World Cup crowds would likely fill Gillette, but a separate Revs stadium would make for a great practice facility.
Hope springs eternal. Revs enthusiasts are nothing if not patient. And they’ll need to wait a bit longer to see that patience rewarded.