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Activists skeptical of Conn. stadium

Nader doubts plan will pass scrutiny

By Associated Press, 12/29/98

HARTFORD -- Consumer activist and Connecticut resident Ralph Nader said yesterday that he expects constitutional and environmental challenges will thwart the state's plan to build a football stadium for the New England Patriots.

Nader and the Connecticut Green Party are trying to gather opponents of the $375 million Hartford stadium in a group called ``Stop the Stadium'' to fight the plan.

``This stadium will never be built. The people of Connecticut, the taxpayers of Connecticut, the voters of Connecticut, the advocacy groups for children, for schools, for a clean environment, will mobilize and rise up to depose this attempt to hoist a grotesque, publicly financed corporate investment on this state,'' Nader said.

Legal scholars plan to scrutinize the bill that passed the Legislature for signs that it would violate the commerce clause of the US Constitution by offering incentives to lure the Patriots from suburban Boston to Hartford, Nader said. The commerce clause states that only Congress may regulate commerce among the states.

The proposal faces environmental challenges because contamination of the site along the Connecticut River must be cleaned up, and the 30-year debt to build the stadium could hurt the state's bond rating, Nader said.

Governor John G. Rowland's spokesman, Dean Pagani, said Nader does not have his facts straight.

Pagani said a 10 percent tax on tickets and other revenues are projected to generate enough money to make the stadium pay for itself over 30 years, so the stadium plan should not affect the state's bond rating.

``He had a lot of rhetoric, typical opposition rhetoric, with hardly any facts at all,'' Pagani said.

Heads of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection have said the site can be cleaned up. The property is contaminated with coal tar and other substances from long-defunct industries.

Nader, a native of Winsted, would not name the legal scholars he was working with and would not elaborate on which Wall Street firms he said were frowning on the bond rating.

The stadium plan passed the state House 97-49 and the Senate 27-8 on Dec. 15, and public opinion polls showed a majority of state residents supported it. Rowland is expected to sign the bill into law in the next few weeks.

The $375 million cost includes expenses to build a 68,000-seat stadium, the environmental cleanup, and infrastructure improvements.

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