Foxborough residents have every right to be up in arms over this proposed casino in their backyard but so do local soccer fans. People often forget that Bob Kraft owns two of New England's major pro teams and he has often neglected one of them. At one time the New England Revolution were a flagship organization for MLS, drawing over 20,000 fans a game, but lately they have struggled while the rest of the league has passed them by.
To be fair the Revs made some major progress this year in catching up with other teams. They took advantage of the "Beckham Rule" and signed a designated player, they finally brokered a jersey sponsorship, and their academy program took off and produced a future star in Diego Fagundez. While these moves are a step in the right direction they do not address the white elephant in the room: Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution cannot continue to play in Foxborough over the long term. It is far too cavernous for a soccer stadium, even though the field was designed according to FIFA specifications. Any type of soccer-style atmosphere that is created by fans at the game is gobbled up by the hulking facility and creates a minor league feel. The field is artificial and soccer is a game that really should be played on natural grass. Artificial turf really changes the way the ball handles, particularly in wet conditions. If you live in Boston and don't own a car you are out of luck if you want to go to a game. The MBTA does not provide train service for the games and the Revolution do not offer any kind of transportation to the stadium like other teams in the league.
This upcoming season over 14 of the 19 teams in MLS will play in their own soccer specific stadiums. This is a major development for a league that has been around for less than 20 years. It not only improves the atmosphere of the game and the fan experience but it also improves the financial situation for the teams as they no longer have to rent cost prohibitive NFL facilities. By all appearances the Revolution are nowhere near joining this club of teams with their own soccer-specific facilities. There have been stories about this happening for years and they never materialize into the pouring of a foundation. This failure to build anything while expansion clubs build new waterfront stadiums and rivals build replicas of European facilities is incredibly frustrating for Revolution fans.
The news of Kraft pursuing a casino at Patriot Place in the midst of waiting for a Revolution stadium has compounded the fans' feeling that they are a secondary concern for Kraft. Many fans view him in the way Bruins fans viewed Jeremy Jacobs pre-lockout. It would not come as a shock to most if a casino goes up at Patriot Place before a soccer stadium is built near Boston; it would only add to their suspicion that Kraft does not really care about this team.
Full disclosure: I was a season ticket holder of the New England Revolution from 2007-2011.
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