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Skittish pols and crazy construction costs: Decades-long push for a Revolution soccer palace faces daunting challenges
As Robert and Jonathan Kraft hunt for a soccer stadium site, they will need something that could make the project politically radioactive - a tax break.
The two-decade long search by the New England Revolution owners for a stadium site is back in the headlines, with an old power plant site on the Everett waterfront the latest to surface as a potential location.
The billionaire Krafts have said they plan to privately finance the $400 million to $500 million project, similar to the approach taken in developing Gillette Stadium two decades ago.
However, for a roughly half a billion dollar project to make sense, the Krafts will probably need a tax increment financing agreement, which typically reduces the load on a new project during its early years, Andrew Zimbalist, an economist and one of the top sports business experts in the country, told Contrarian Boston.
“It seems like they haven’t found a lot of very cooperative city councils to deal with,” said Zimbalist, professor emeritus at Smith College. “My understanding is the Krafts have been actively looking to strike a deal for 20 years.”
That said, Zimbalist said he does not know whether tax incentives have been an issue, noting there are other challenges that have likely made it difficult for the Krafts to secure a stadium site.
In order to build a new, 20,000-seat soccer stadium, the Krafts will need 15-17 acres of land at a site in the Boston area’s urban core that can attract free-spending business executives and the advertisers who want to reach them, Zimbalist said.
Apparently not meant to be: Rendering of a potential Revolution stadium at the old Bayside Expo in Dorchester
That’s no easy find, and the Krafts have kicked the tires on any number of sites in Boston and its environs over the years, including the old Bayside Exposition Center in Dorchester, Widett Circle, and sites in Somerville and Revere.
Like any other major project, a new stadium would also face an array of regulatory reviews on the city, state and federal levels, potentially dragging on for years, especially if there is opposition, as there almost always is in Greater Boston.
Nor is Zimbalist sold on the Everett site, calling it too remote. Not to mention potential pollution/cleanup issues at the old industrial site, likely costing millions to resolve.
But neither can the Krafts afford to sit on their hands, with the Revolution stuck in Gillette, a venue that is far too large and not built for soccer. Most U.S. soccer teams now play in new, dedicated stadiums, and the Revolution are near the bottom of the MLS pack in revenue, according to Forbes.
Still, it isn’t unusual for stadium proposals to drag out for years or even decades, notes Larry Moulter, who, as the former chairman and CEO of the New Boston Garden Corp., helped oversee the development and construction of the new Garden in the early 1990s.
That project took nearly 30 years to come to fruition, Moulter told Contrarian Boston.
"These projects are complicated; layered with real political financial and community concerns,” Moulter said. “Owners, however, like the Jacobs, the Henrys and the Krafts can eventually stitch together a plan, one that works, because their sense of business and focus on a greater good.”
You read it here first
That would be the Globe’s March 16 story on State Auditor Diana DiZoglio’s plans to probe the use of nondisclosure agreements in the Legislature and state government to cover up cases of abuse, sexual or otherwise.
But it was even better when it ran in Contrarian Boston on March 3.
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