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Malden spring football deal in jeopardy after councilors say no to beer

Posted by Jarret Bencks  February 7, 2013 05:00 PM

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Plans to bring a spring league football team to Malden may be sidelined after city councilors Tuesday called for Malden's Licensing Board to reject a request to serve beer during games at Macdonald Stadium, according to a statement from the team.

City Councilor Steven Ultrino, who represents residents in Ward 2 that includes Macdonald Stadium, introduced a resolution Tuesday, urging the licensing board to deny a petition to serve beer during games played by the Boston Freedom Fighters of the start-up National Spring Football League. It was approved in a 9-1 vote.

"I support the football team playing there," Ultrino said Thursday. "But I oppose alcohol and I'd like to have the community involved before making any decisions."

To see Ultrino's letter to Ward 2 residents, click here.

In a statement Wednesday, the team chided the council for taking such a measure without meeting with league officials first, and said it planned to begin looking at other communities for its home field.

The council's resolution is not binding, but will be considered by the three-member Licensing Board, which is chaired by former mayor James S. Conway.

"It came as a surprise to the league representatives, after such good faith efforts less than one week ago, that the City Councilor Steven Ultrino would take steps to jeopardize the results of the hard work by the city and the league," the statement said.

The city's stadium commission last week unanimously approved a lease deal with the Freedom Fighters that included allowing limited beer sales at games. The agreement was backed by Mayor Gary Christenson.

During the stadium commission meeting, Ultrino objected to the plan and asked the commission to hold a public hearing before voting.

"It's a kick in the behind to the residents of Ward 2," he said at the time.

Utlrino will hold a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21`in the community room at 89 Pearl St.

Ultrino's resolution Tuesday said the serving of beer during games would be detrimental to the neighborhood.

The agreement allows the team to serve up to three beers per patron during games, a compromise between the team and the commission, Commission members said limiting service to three drinks would help preserve a family environment and keep patrons within the law.

On Thursday, Christenson said he viewed the agreement as "low risk, high reward." The deal calls for the Freedom Fighters to play six home games in 2013, and gives the city an option to extend the agreement to 2014.

"If it was 85 games, that's a different story," he said. "But this is six games and then we get to reevaluate. "

Owned by Malden businessman William Spadafora, the Freedom Fighters plan on playing a six-game home schedule, beginning March 23.

The team also has a combine acheduled for Feb. 16 at the stadium as it continues to seek players to fill its roster.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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