Like most New England Patriots fans, Greg Spier is happy that the team earned a home playoff game this season by winning its ninth division championship in 10 years.
But Spier, a property manager who owns the Pine Brook Office Park on Route 1 in Foxborough, has an extra reason to cheer when the Patriots host the Houston Texans Sunday afternoon: He’ll rake in about $7,500 in parking fees.
“As I tell people all the time, we have a vested interest in how the Patriots do,” said Spier, president of Maystar Realty Corp. “A playoff game is like pennies from heaven.”
Across the street at Seasonal Specialty Stores, however, the sentiment is different.
“We’d certainly rather be open for business than open for parking,” said Seasonal manager Michael Small. “Would it be better to sell pool tables and hot tubs? Absolutely.”
For businesses within walking distance of Gillette Stadium, a home playoff game is either a blessing or a curse.
Those not normally bustling on weekends enjoy one more opportunity to pad their accounts with parking revenue from fans. Many owners of the 38 private lots near the stadium will raise their rates to $60 per car for the postseason. All the private lots combined will collect as much as $400,000 in parking fees on Sunday alone.
Other businesses accustomed to robust weekend sales must suffer through yet another day — in addition to eight regular-season game dates — when they are forced to curb their hours or close altogether, losing more money than they can recover from their parking lots.
“We definitely lose on game days,” said Joel Wheeler, president of Motorcycles of Manchester South. “If it’s a night game, it’s not so bad, but the day games hurt.”
A business-altering playoff game, a remote possibility during during the Patriots’ first three decades in Foxborough, has become an event that companies near the stadium must plan for almost every year. Since the 2001 season, when the franchise won its first Super Bowl, the Patriots have played 13 home playoff games, more than any other NFL team.
Private companies in Foxborough and Walpole are critical to the parking supply on game days, providing 6,654 spaces, according to town records — roughly a quarter of the total used by fans. Though some are more than a mile from the field, they routinely charge as much or more than the $40 fee at stadium lots, enticing fans with signs that claim an “easy out” after the game.
The lot owners pay license fees to their towns and to the state, which totaled $31.32 per parking space this season. Lots with more than 150 spaces must offer a portable toilet. There are staffing costs, cleanup costs, and insurance costs. Some owners must pay for a police detail.
For Ron Young, owner of the Lafayette House restaurant, revenue from parking customers outweighs any hassle and expense, especially in the slow month of January, when many regulars jet off to warmer climates. Young typically charges $50 per car, but he will tack on another $10 for Sunday’s divisional round contest, hauling in $8,400.
“When the Patriots are in the playoffs, it’s a home run,” Young said.
Then there’s the food all those hungry fans will eat. Young keeps an e-mail list of his usual parkers, which he used this week to advertise a game-day buffet.
Newcomers will be welcome, too, because as Young noted, “the playoffs bring spenders — an upscale crowd.”
Even Sunday’s kickoff time, 4:30 p.m., is ideal for the Lafayette House.
“If it’s a 1 o’clock game, people tend to show up, park, and go [to the game,]” Young said. “But for a 4 p.m. game, they’ll park and come in and eat before going. Four o’clock games are always good for us.”
The opposite is true for Seasonal, which could have salvaged some regular business if the Patriots were in the 1 p.m. time slot assigned to the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons. But with the 4:30 kickoff, Small said, “you can kiss the day good-bye.”
Despite the toll Patriots games take on some businesses, there’s no grumbling about a playoff run, said Kara Griffin, executive director of the Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce, which includes Foxborough.
“For the most part, our members are very happy to be near the stadium,” Griffin said. “Nobody’s calling to complain about lost business. We’re all New Englanders at heart.”
Small and Wheeler said they can’t bring themselves to root against the hometown team, even if it would be good for business.
“I’m a season ticket holder,” Wheeler said. “So we like to see them win, and we just put up with [the lost revenue].”
If the Patriots beat the Texans and the Baltimore Ravens upset the Denver Broncos this weekend, the Pats would earn yet another home playoff game, the AFC Championship Game next weekend.
For Small, that would mean one more day of sales down the drain, but he says he wouldn’t mind.
“I’m a Pats fan,” Small said. “I’d rather the road to the Super Bowl come through Foxborough than Denver.”