Before you reach for your legally purchased military-style assault rifles, I’m talking about the New England Revolution, not the New England Patriots.
One World Cup ago, Kevin Alexander wrote a bold, unapologetic article for Boston Magazine about the Kraft’s mismanagement of the Revs. In the article, Alexander highlights the Kraft’s reputation for being cheap with their players and unpopular in the MLS. Sadly, this state of affairs still rings true today.
Like most soccer fans from here, I’ve learned to separate my reverence for the Patriot Way from my disdain of the Revolution’s owners, Robert and Jonathan Kraft.
As you can imagine, this awkward conflict of interest brews deep within, constantly tugging on the left and right side of my brain.
The Revs and the Pats couldn’t be more polar opposites:
We have the Patriots, who have amassed the most successful player-coach-ownership record in all of professional sports; and play their home games in a sold out stadium designed specifically for American Football--and then...
the Revolution, who have never won anything of significance; and struggle to attract any fans outside of a few youth soccer clubs, and the Saturday groundskeeping crew reporting early for Patriots game day prep.
Gillette Stadium is a Terrible Venue for Soccer
Though the list of problems with the Revs is long and diverse, not having a soccer specific stadium (SSS) in Boston--or any other New England city for that matter--has held the club back from success and popularity. The prospect of a SSS in Boston has been a pipedream since the club’s inception in 1996.
Every year when it’s time to renew season tickets, the rumors come out that this will be THE year the Revs finally get their own stadium!
And then nothing happens.
Potential sites have included: Suffolk Downs, Somerville, Dorchester, South Boston, Revere, and most recently, Providence.
That’s right. You read that last one correctly, Providence. Even a SSS in a city other than Boston, would be better than keeping the Revs in Gillette.
Yet, before you ponder even the slightest bit of hope for a stadium in Providence (or anywhere else), cast your eyes upon this uninspiring interview with Jonathan Kraft.
Did you catch Kraft’s shit-eating grin after he’s asked when the Revs will announce a stadium deal? I wish he'd just said, “listen, we could care less about the club, and we plan to sell it to a bunch of Qataris next year."
Most Youth Soccer Clubs Put The Revs Front Office To Shame
So the ownership is out of touch, big deal. The front office (FO) probably has it together, right? That’s tough to defend since the Revs rarely, if ever, come to Boston for town hall or Q&A events. Could you imagine this type of exchange between Harry Redknapp defending a young, Frank Lampard, ever going down at an official New England Revolution function?
Instead, the Revs President, Brian Bilello, likes to field questions from fans via Reddit, or once a year in person at a sponsored event in the middle of the day.
At Gillette stadium.
30 miles from Boston.
Running parallel to the Revs stadium search, there has always been the awkward, detached approach by the FO to connect adult soccer fans and players to the organization. Look at the clip below of Bilello reacting to Taylor Twellman, as he goes off on a rant about supporting your local club. Poor Twellman, he inadvertently references the elephant in the room--that MLS (and by default, the Revs) don’t have genuine, widespread support. Bilello’s face seems to say “ya… we don’t really have any fans either."
Change Ain’t Easy
I’m well aware that building a SSS would not magically transform the Kraft’s into becoming soccer-savvy owners, nor would it change the club’s internal and external problems. However, a SSS would undeniably elevate the profile of the Revs, and finally tie thousands of soccer fans and amateur players from the region’s cities to the club’s fanbase.
I’m also aware that any mention of stadium and Boston together in the same sentence can trigger visceral outrage and obstruction.
The barriers that stand in the way of a stadium being built in the city are very real, and extremely complicated. Boston has one of the most archaic, and inefficient public transit systems in the country--and a reputation for being extremely risk averse when it comes to public infrastructure projects. When Robert Kraft attempted to build a football stadium in South Boston in the early 90s, he was nearly tarred and feathered by the local Sully’s and Fitzy’s.
Still, I cannot let the Kraft’s completely off the hook. They have the financial capital to finance a private soccer stadium, just like they did for Gillette.
Piece by Piece
If the Revs ever build a soccer stadium in another city--like Providence or Worcester--it would be great for those communities, but it should still be considered a failure. Boston has to be the destination for a SSS, and the city shouldn’t stop at building just one professional venue.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have real soccer stadiums in all of the major cities in New England?
Boston versus clubs in Worcester, Lowell, Springfield--all the way down to New York City. I’m not talking about 60,000 capacity bowls, or dangling a massive four paneled tv screen over the field, like the Dallas Cowboys. Rather, a stadium with five, ten, fifteen thousand seats would provide more than enough character to shut me up. And these local venues can be built piece by piece: a standing-room only section behind goal, with a modest roof cover for the more rowdy, inebriated supporters; two level seated sections added along the touch line after a few seasons of play, etc.
The idea of building your own stadium may sound nuts to most Americans. For me, it’s equally as crazy to think that the Kraft’s, and the Revs FO, will finally step up and take some action after over 20 years of doing nothing.
It’s high time the Kraft’s sell the club to somebody that gives a F*** about the city of Boston, the growth of soccer in this region, and the passionate community that is screaming for it.
I hope I regret every single word in this article come the end of 2018, and the Kraft’s have put shovels to dirt, and we have a modern SSS, right next to the T. Yet, more likely than not, the Revs will opt for another press release promising that they are “close” to securing a site--and then they’ll follow up with their annual season ticket reminder.
Author: Sean Malvey