Kraft execs make case for Everett soccer stadium to lawmakers

Kraft execs make case for Everett soccer stadium to lawmakers

Kraft execs make case for Everett soccer stadium to lawmakers

By Greg Ryan

Executives from The Kraft Group broke their public silence on Tuesday about their desire to build a stadium for the New England Revolution on the Mystic River in Everett, with one expressing a hope to turn the site into “an economic driver for the region.”

Revolution President Brian Bilello and Kraft Group construction executive Ted Fire testified before a State House committee weighing a bill that would enable the Krafts to build the stadium on land that is now considered a designated port area under state law. The project cannot move forward unless that DPA designation is removed.

The Kraft executives, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Wynn Resorts and labor officials pressed state lawmakers to pass the legislation, but the proposal drew skepticism from Boston city officials and opposition from the Conservation Law Foundation.

An Everett stadium has been the subject of debate for years, but the legislative hearing marked the first time that The Kraft Group has shared renderings of what the project might look like and made the case to the public about the potential of a stadium on the Mystic. The Revs have played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough since their 1996 inception, but the Kraft family has long sought a stadium closer to Boston’s urban core and public transportation.

“We are aware of the unique nature of this legislation, but we believe this is a unique case,” Bilello said. “Let me be clear that we’re not looking to avoid public process. This isn’t the starting line for us. This is just us trying to get to that starting line.”

The Kraft Group is exploring turning a 43-acre parcel that includes part of a decommissioned power plant into a stadium that would host Revs games, concerts and community events as well as a four-acre waterfront park. Bilello floated the possibility that Eversource could use part of the site to “maintain and expand the grid” as part of the region’s turn towards clean energy. There would be minimal on-site parking, with most fans expected to get to games using mass transit. 

“I get this question a lot, ‘Why would you move from Foxborough to a place like Everett?’” Bilello said. “We’re trying to get our stadium and our club to public transportation.”

Even if the DPA designation is removed, the Kraft Group’s proposal would still undergo state environmental and other reviews, Bilello and Fire testified. Bilello announced that the Kraft Group already had signed agreements with trade union Unite Here and the Teamsters to build the project.

The executives showed renderings of a white, open-air stadium where the power plant and large smokestacks stand today, with Wynn’s Encore casino visible in the background and boats seen pulling up to a new dock. They did not share a seat capacity, though one of the reasons for the move would be for the team to play in a less cavernous space than Gillette. Bilello said that the renderings are only preliminary.

In his testimony, DeMaria pushed the economic and job benefits of bringing the stadium to unused land. Asked by a lawmaker if a soccer stadium is the best use of the site, the mayor said that cleaning up the site could cost in the neighborhood of $100 million and that housing and other commercial developers said they could not afford that expense.

“There’s no other industry that’s going to come here and spend that money to clean that up,” DeMaria said.

Boston planning chief Arthur Jemison and City Councilor Sharon Durkan did not outright oppose the project in their testimony but raised concerns about its impact on Boston and called for the city to have a bigger role in conversations about the stadium. Both raised concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety, particularly in Charlestown, located across the river from the site.

“If there were simultaneous events both at [TD] Garden and the stadium, it would be a nightmare for traffic from the northern portion of the commuter rail,” Durkan said. “The only commitment I saw… made toward mass transit was saying they would study pedestrian infrastructure from Sullivan Square to the stadium. I think we need a little more detail there.”

Conservation Law Foundation attorney Maggie Sullivan said that the environmental group could not support the legislation in its current form, arguing such “spot zoning” leads to poor planning. She maintained that CLF is not dead-set against a soccer stadium in Everett, but that lawmakers needed to ensure that removing the land as a port area would not hurt the state’s clean energy transition and that “major transportation solutions” were put into place.

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