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Residents air concerns over pro football at Malden's Macdonald Stadium

Posted by Jarret Bencks  February 22, 2013 10:02 AM

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About 100 residents of Malden's Ward 2 turned out for a public hearing for a start-up pro football team that wants to play its games at Macdonald Stadium on Pearl Street.

Concerns were aired over parking, street closures, trash cleanup, and the possibility that beer will be sold during games.

"If there's drinking, then there will be fights, and before you know it drugs will be involved," said Pearl Street resident Maureen O'Brien.

Malden's stadium commission, a 10-member panel of volunteers, unanimously approved an agreement in late January to lease the stadium to the Boston Freedom Fighters of the National Spring Football League for a six-game home schedule starting in April. The agreement included allowing the team to serve up to three beers per patron during games. But the deal hasn't been signed yet, and any beer sales would have to receive approval from the city's Licensing Board.

On hand for the meeting were the stadium commission, Mayor Gary Christenson, Roberto Di Marco, lawyer for the team, and Steven Ultrino, Ward 2's city councilor, who called for the public hearing.

The deal also calls for Pearl Street to be blocked off to any traffic other than residents of the neighborhood during games. Malden resident Eugene Kolnick, asked Di Marco about specific plans for ensuring game patrons don't park in certain areas, and how trash cleanup after games would be handled. Di Marco said the team was working on plans, but couldn't provide specifics.

"It's hard to make a sound decision without a solid proposal," Kolnick said.

Di Marco, a Malden resident, said serving beer at games was a business decision, but that he didn't believe it would make-or-break whether the team played its games in Malden.

"That's a decision at the level of the ownership, I believe I could keep them here, at least for the season," he said.

As written, the deal calls for the team to pay the city $2,000 per week during its season for use of the field, and gives the city the option to continue the contract for the following year. Christenson said those terms were part of the reason he has been supportive of the team.

"If we don't like it, at the end of the season we can wave good bye and move on," he said.

The team will be coached by a crew of former New England Patriots, led by Patrick Pass. The players and coaches have agreed to work with Malden youth, either at the city's teen center or schools, another reason Christenson said he found the team appealing.

That wasn't enough for resident Erin Bellofatto, who said the team needed to offer something tangible to the neighborhood.

"I need to see something in return," she said.

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

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