Patriots fans and players finally get dream palace
New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft envisioned his sparkling new Gillette Stadium to look "like a Cape Cod house."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But there are no clapboards or gable roofs here. It's an open-air dream palace.
On one sunny Saturday, three weeks before the Super Bowl champions kick off their first regular-season Monday night game (Sept. 9), thousands of fans eagerly await the first game at Gillette Stadium. It was built over the past two years right next to the team's old home, Foxboro Stadium now a parking lot.
It's only an exhibition game, but the excitement in the air is palpable. "I feel like I'm in Disney World," says Renay Coppola of Revere, Mass., who attends games occasionally with her husband. "It's unbelievable."
This state-of-the-art facility features modern amenities that a Patriot's fan could only dream about for decades individual chairback seats with cup holders, jumbo TV screens, state-of-the-art sound systems, and eateries with New England themes like "The Boston Common" and "Berkshire Sausage."
But wait a minute: Fans still must pinch themselves. Who would have thought that the once-lowly Pats would win the Super Bowl last year, let alone play in a modern stadium in historic Massachusetts?
"It's like you're not even in the same area. It feels like you're in a different state," says 10-year season ticketholder Walter Pomerleau of Rowley, Mass.
Indeed, the old parking lot once featured dirt, ditches, and rocks. The new one is smooth and paved, with manicured lawns and a family picnic area. Kraft has given the Pats new home many New England touches Boston ivy on the walls; a 10-story-high lighthouse with big rocks, sea grass, and blueberry bushes at its base; and a bridge from which fans can watch the game.
The massive 68,000-seat Gillette Stadium, which looks like something out of "Star Wars" with dozens of ramps zigzagging around the outside (you can almost hear fans huffing and puffing as they walk to the top), is one of four NFL facilities opening this year. Reliant Stadium in Houston, Ford Field in Detroit, and Seahawks Stadium in Seattle are among the other stadiums where fans will enjoy football in the lap of luxury.
Looking back on the old stadium, fans often talk about sitting on uncomfortable aluminum benches with no backs. Kraft once said you could fry an egg on them in the summer and freeze water on them in the winter.
"If you had a seat in the middle [of the metal bench], your seat would disappear when you went to get something to drink," says Pomerleau, as he tends to marinated steak tips on his red portable grill two hours before game time. "You can't imagine how awful it was before. I don't think anyone misses Foxboro [Stadium]."
While the old Boston Garden (replaced by the Fleet Center) and 90-year-old Fenway Park held loads of nostalgia for fans, there had been little nostalgia for Foxboro Stadium, which opened as Schaefer Stadium in 1971.