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Entertainment Complex to Offer Fun in Shadow of New England’s Stadium

Wed March 19, 2008 - Northeast Edition
James A. Merolla

In 1993, the New England Patriots were among the worst franchises in the NFL.

Their fans sat on flat, uncomfortable aluminum seats in a horrible cement stadium. The team was awful. They almost moved to St. Louis.

Then came new owner Robert Kraft, who brought top coaches Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, respectability and three world championships to Foxboro, Mass., where the Patriots’ stadium is located.

A dynasty in the first decade of the 21st Century, the Patriots now are the envy of the league, an example of how to run an NFL franchise. Yet, hardly satisfied, the Kraft family has gone even further.

Welcome to Patriot Place, a vast real estate development being built on approximately 350 acres (141.6 ha) surrounding glistening Gillette Stadium.

Currently under development for Patriot Place are a 14-screen movie theater, a 150-room Renaissance hotel, dozens of stores and restaurants, a 500-seat jazz club and a 100,000-sq.-ft. (9,290 sq m) medical office center. A $20 million interactive exhibit hall — intended to celebrate not only the New England Patriots but also youth football throughout New England — may become the envy of Halls of Fame anywhere outside of Canton, Ohio.

$500 Million Buys 80 Stores

Patriot Place will have more than 80 stores and attractions in 14 separate buildings which will cover 1.3 million sq. ft. (120,774 sq m) when it is completed next fall. The Kraft Group, a holding company for the Kraft family’s business interests, has estimated the cost at $350 million, but top executives suggest it could reach $500 million.

There is no other development comparable in acreage between Boston, which is 24 mi. to the north, and Providence, R.I., about 22 mi. to the south, and certainly none with a stadium.

“Our goal is to build and create something down here that is truly special and unique for New England,” said Robert Kraft, chairman and chief executive of the Kraft Group. “We believe that within 10 years, this will be the No. 1 retail development in New England.”

The lead contractor, Suffolk Construction Company Inc., is a privately held building contracting firm with main offices on the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and West Coast.

According to Suffolk, the company has a strong reputation for delivering challenging building construction projects on schedule and on budget. Its teams have a wealth of experience and a passionate commitment to client service and relationship building. They call themselves influencers in the construction industry and in our local communities, who consistently lead by example while striving to exceed expectations with clients, partners and the people and businesses in our surrounding neighborhoods.

“It is a privilege to partner with Robert and Jonathan Kraft and their organization on this important project. We believe we share a common bond with the Krafts because of our commitment to quality and client service, and we’re very excited to play an important role in making their extraordinary vision for Patriot Place a reality,” said John F. Fish, CEO, Suffolk Construction Company Inc.

Construction is taking place on 85 acres (34.4 ha) as part of a 700-acre (283 ha) site. Some 70,000 cu. yd. (53,519 cu m) of earth are being moved and approximately 25,000 cu. yd. (19,114 cu m) of concrete and 5,500 tons (4,989 t) of steel are being put down and put up.

Subcontractors on the job have more than 100 pieces of equipment on-site. At times, there have been eight yukes, or trucks, on-site, as well as 20 to 30 pieces of excavation equipment, several loaders, and equipment to handle on-site processing of more than 30,000 yd. (27,432 m) of blasted rock.

At one time, there were seven cranes of all sizes on-site. Suffolk also has used an extensive amount of rented equipment to coordinate events as the stadium remains open during construction. This includes light towers, jersey barriers, temporary signage, 15 generators and 2 mi. (3.2 km) of temporary fencing.

More than 250 tradespeople are on-site. Suffolk is constructing roughly 900,000 sq. ft. (83,613 sq m) of the total 1.3-million-sq.-ft. complex — 14 total buildings.

Suffolk’s scope entails:

• All site work and concrete work.

• Steel erection of more than 900,000 sq. ft. (83,613 sq m) of building.

• 5,500 tons (4,990 t) of steel fabricated and erected exterior steel studs and sheathing.

• Cement and masonry veneer.

• Roofing.

• All mechanical infrastructure for utilities to all buildings.

• On-site processing of more than 40,000 cu. yd. (30,582 cu m).

• Widening of Route 1 — the highway leading to the stadium — for 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) to open access to the shopping center.

Subcontractors included:

• J.H. Lynch and Company, which did the offsite work and the north site work (approximately 60 percent of the work, according to a company spokesperson).

• AA Will Excavation did the south retail site work and paving.

• S&F Concrete did all concrete formwork and flatwork.

• Cives fabricated 3,000 tons (2,721 t) of steel, Zichelle erected the steel using two cranes to maintain schedule.

• Capone Iron Corp. fabricated 2,500 tons (2,268 t) of steel, Dorel-Snow did the erecting. One crane was used for most of this scope.

A Huge Bass

As of November, one major store in the vast shopping area was completed and is up and running. Missouri-based chain geared for the outdoor set, Bass Pro Shops is as much about entertainment as it is about selling fishing rods and lures.

The 150,000-sq.-ft. (13,935 sq m) store at Patriot Place features two indoor ponds, one for trout and the other for turtles; a 34,000-gal. aquarium with more than 400 species of fish native to the area; a diorama and murals depicting wildlife; and a laser shooting gallery, where customers can test their skills on an array of targets set up near stuffed animals.

Not to mention its indoor stream and waterfall, a 40-ft. fiberglass whale and its own cafe. The store is nearly as long as three-and-a-half Gillette Stadium football fields.

It is the first in New England, the closest stores being in Albany, N.Y. and Harrisburg, Pa.

100,000 People

Flock to Opening

In November, close to 100,000 people flocked to Patriot Place on the first weekend that Bass Pro Shops opened. Having the Patriots future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady at the ribbon-cutting probably didn’t hurt.

At the 2008 Spring Fishing Classic to be held there at Bass over 16 days, from Feb. 29 through March 16, some 150,000 people are expected to visit the store for giveaways.

Once all of the attractions at Patriot Place are up and running, Kraft said, as many as 20 million people a year are expected to flock to Foxboro — and not necessarily to see the Patriots, professional soccer or other stadium events like rock concerts.

Creating a year-round attraction to offset football’s relatively short season was the whole idea behind Patriot Place. Kraft said he knew that after spending $325 million to build Gillette Stadium, which opened in 2002, he had to create something else on the Foxboro site to justify the investment.

That investment included the construction of costly infrastructure to support the 68,000 people who routinely descend on Foxboro for Patriots games and other stadium events.

“When we built Gillette Stadium, we wanted to create an entertainment venue that would become a year-round destination for families throughout New England,” said Jonathan Kraft, president and chief operating officer of The Kraft Group. “This project fulfills the long-range plan we envisioned when we proposed building Gillette Stadium.”

Patriot Place is ideally located for a retail development. There are more than 1 million families within a 30-mi. radius. The project, opening in phases, saw “the Power Center” open in December. The rest of the lifestyle center is targeted to open in the fall of 2008.

There also will be state-of-the-art broadcasting studios for the CBS Network, CBS Sports and its New England TV and radio stations; and a CBS Network retail store.

Fans can even have parties with props and backdrops from their favorite shows, in private function halls.

Patriots Hall of Fame Spurs Others

One of the jewels in the project will be the 36,000-sq.-ft. (3,344 sq m) Patriots Hall of Fame, that will celebrate the history and traditions of the New England Patriots, which the Krafts transformed from a backwater of professional football into a sports dynasty. It also crowns the arrival of professional sports stadium as the hub of a new kind of urban development.

These days, retail-entertainment mega-developments are sprouting around the edges of professional sports venues from Washington, D.C., to Fremont, Calif., with amenities ranging from sports-themed nightclubs and restaurants to indoor skiing.

But in the late 1990s, after the Krafts had purchased the Patriots from James Orthwein, both the Patriots and the NFL were seeking a new identity.

One of those who helped bring it into focus was Chuck Bragitikos, a Philadelphia consultant brought in when the NFL was looking to capitalize on its professional sports expertise with football-themed attractions and entertainment features.

Among those intently observing developments as a member of a league oversight committee was Bob Kraft.

“He’s a guy who’s incredibly entrepreneurial, who understands the power of the brand, and knows how to put something together that’s more than the sum of its parts,” Bragitikos, president of Vibrant Development told reporter Rick Foster of the Sun Chronicle newspaper in Attleboro. His group counsels major league franchise owners, casino developers and other parties on development issues. “He’s certainly been a leader.”

Since successfully negotiating a tricky path to construct Gillette Stadium in Foxboro — by way of Providence and Hartford, where he almost moved — Kraft and his team quietly acquired land along Route 1 in Foxboro, setting the foundation to make the new stadium the hub of a commercial and entertainment mega-center.

Now, with the second of two phases of the new Patriot Place set to open this summer, Kraft has beaten almost every other stadium and franchise owner to the punch.

Patriot Place is just the first in a series of sports-themed retail centers, entertainment megaplexes — even whole neighborhoods — poised to spring up in concert with new major league sports stadia.

Some examples:

• In Arlington, Texas, the 135-acre (54.6 ha) “Glorypark” will encompass more than 2 million sq. ft. (185,806 sq m) of office and retail space, three major hotels and 2,000 residential units sandwiched between a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers and the new Dallas Cowboys domed stadium. The complex will open in 2009.

• In Fremont, Calif., the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team is proposing a “ballpark village,” complete with a new stadium, a retail-office complex, 3,100 residential units, and even a new elementary school.

• The Meadowlands Xanadu retail-office-entertainment complex in New Jersey is expected to cost $2 billion and will flank a new, $1.3 billion stadium to house both the New York Jets and New York Giants football teams. Xanadu, when it opens next year, will include a lavish array of leisure amenities, including a first-of-its-kind indoor ski resort.

In the ever-competitive development world, retail and entertainment centers piggybacking on major league sports are viewed as a way to expand revenues by creating a unique shopping and entertainment experience.

“Team owners see their teams or facilities they can control as a way to catalyze other types of development,” Bragitikos said.

Marriage of

Sports, Shopping

Malachy Kavanagh, a spokesman of the International Council of Shopping Centers, said the bringing together of sports and shopping is a marriage of convenience and profit.

“Sports stadiums get to maximize the value of the land on their properties by creating more revenue opportunities,” Kavanagh said. “Retail benefits from an element of entertainment and association with a major sports arena that they didn’t have before.”

Practicality is another reason bringing sports and commerce together. With municipalities increasingly concerned about sprawl, stadium-retail-entertainment complexes represent a more efficient use of land and a way to wring additional tax revenue and jobs from a single parcel, Kavanagh said.

Washington, D.C., is looking to its new major league ballpark, set to open this year, as the first step in redeveloping a historic waterfront along the Anacostia River.

Several parcels will be developed to include more than 12 million sq. ft. (1,114,836 sq m) of new office space, entertainment, shopping and a “waterfront destination.”

While the construction of Gillette Stadium in 2000-2002 came with the realization that an adjacent “economic development area” might eventually provide prime space for a hotel or other type of development, the Patriot Place concept took time to hatch, Kraft spokesman Stacy James said.

“After a couple of years, there was an assessment of what else could we do,” said James.

James said the guiding principal in Kraft’s stewardship of Patriot Place was that it rise above the ordinary.

“One could argue that Bob Kraft didn’t need to undertake an additional risk like this,”

James said. “But Bob Kraft looks at this as a legacy. And as always, when the Krafts put their name to something, it has to be quality.”

“We are proud to develop a lifestyle center with the scope and size of Patriot Place,” added Robert Kraft. “It will not only bring over 2,000 new jobs to the region, it will also revolutionize the shopping and dining experience for millions of visitors each year. We are very excited about the impact this project is going to have in the region.”

(Rick Foster of The Sun Chronicle newspaper in Attleboro, Mass., contributed to this report. His interviews are reprinted with permission.) CEG

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