By Tina Cassidy, Globe Staff, 02/13/99
Connecticut officials must show by April 2 that they can clear the
proposed Hartford stadium site for the New England Patriots, or team owner
Robert Kraft can walk away from the $374 million deal, according to the final
development agreement released last night.
The state also has to prove it can pay for infrastructure and potentially
costly environmental cleanup with the $55 million already allocated by the
state's General Assembly.
In no uncertain terms, the 225-page document pressures officials to
demonstrate they can meet all of their obligations in a timely fashion and
gives Kraft a legal escape if the state fails to keep its promises.
Still, both sides said they viewed yesterday's early morning signing of the
agreement -- following a marathon meeting -- as a positive step toward moving
the Patriots to Hartford by 2002 at the latest.
``It signals a significant milestone in the process of completing this
project,'' said Patriots spokesman Stacey James. The document commits the team
to stay in Hartford for 30 years and requires it to ``establish an office with
marketing, public relations, and community affairs staff in Hartford . . . no
later than April 2.''
Governor John G. Rowland was at a conference in Miami yesterday and could
not be reached for comment. His spokesman, Dean Pagani, said the governor's
greatest concern all along has been moving the CTG Resources Inc. steam plant
from the proposed stadium location. CTG is considering an offer to vacate,
raising hope that the site may be cleared soon.
``He's confident that will be taken care of in the not too distant
future,'' Pagani said. ``He thinks he can convince [the Patriots] within 60
There are, however, still many questions unanswered.
For example, no one knows how badly the site is contaminated, although a
study conducted a decade ago found high levels of pollutants.
Without a definitive environmental survey of the 11 riverfront acres owned
by the steam plant, it is impossible to say how much cleanup might cost,
A new study would have to be done very quickly to answer those questions,
but some environmentalists privately said the April 2 deadline would be hard
About $55 million was earmarked for infrastructure improvements and site
remediation in the stadium bill passed in December.
If cleanup of the site skyrockets past $10 million, it could pose a serious
threat to the project's funding, or possibly undermine the state's promise
to build ramps and parking lots that would allow for easy access to and from
the stadium, as has been promised.
Consumer crusader Ralph Nader, who lives in Connecticut, said he is worried
the state may skimp on cleaning up the site to save money.
``They want to keep the costs down,'' Nader said. ``This stadium is never
going to be built. There isn't a doubt in my mind. Rowland is wasting his time
. . . there's just too many pitfalls, too many hurdles, a growing revolt, one
of the strongest in modern Connecticut history.''
Pagani downplayed those concerns and said there are a number of possible
funding sources for the environmental costs, including some money put up by
local businesses banking on the massive redevelopment of downtown Hartford.
``The document has common sense language included in it that provides for
contingencies if some deadline can't be met,'' Pagani said. ``Anything in the
document can be changed by mutual consent.''
But the document states that if the state has not made sufficient progress
addressing the relocation of the steam plant, the timing of the project, and
its overall cost by the new April 2 deadline, the team ``in its sole and
absolute discretion . . . may terminate this agreement.'' Mutual consent is
not needed to kill the deal, the agreement says.