The hype surrounding Taylor Swift’s arrival to Gillette Stadium this weekend has been hard to ignore. But how is this series of sold-out concerts different from all the other big events that have come to Foxborough before it?
“It’s not,” said Richard Noonan, deputy chief of the town’s police department. “We’re used to having sold out events with 65 or 70,000 people on a yearly basis. We have a robust safety plan in place and we’re going to carry out this event as we have with every other major event, whether it be [the New England Country Music Festival], the AFC Championship, or any other major sold-out event.”
Noonan stressed that there will be no additional personnel, signage, or precautions that would not normally be in place.
This is, after all, not the town’s first rodeo. Hordes of sports and music fans have been traveling to Foxborough in large numbers for years.
Still, many Swifties coming to Gillette this weekend — an audience that is often much younger, on average, than those at an NFL game or Bruce Springsteen concert — may be doing so for the first time, so navigating the landscape could be more confusing than it would be for a Patriots fan.
“When you have season-ticket holders, they understand the semantics of getting from their parking spot to their seats. They understand there’s a clear bag policy in effect, and that they’re going to be screened,” Noonan said. “Any time we have an event that does not have season ticket holders, there is a learning curve for some of the fans.”
Police, the town, and Gillette management have spent the days leading up to the concerts sharing tips and policy reminders on social media, in hopes of reaching as many Swifties as possible before showtime.
Gillette Stadium staff have been sending tweets written in lingo familiar to Swift’s devoted fanbase, and answering fans’ queries about its policy on trading friendship bracelets (they are “absolutely allowed”).
Good morning, Swifties! We’re seeing some questions floating around and wanted to provide some clarification:— Gil13tte Stadium (Taylor’s Version) (@GilletteStadium) May 17, 2023
✅ Portable phone chargers ARE allowed inside Gillette Stadium.
❎ Battery packs attached to signs, outfits etc (anything that includes removable batteries) are NOT…
The Walpole Police Department has also used this strategy. To warn people about road congestion, officials shared a post on Facebook on Tuesday laden with references to Swift’s lyrics and album titles.
“It’s not ‘folklore’ that South Walpole Square has a ‘reputation’ for heavy traffic during stadium events,” police said, “and it won’t be moving ‘Swift-ly’ this weekend if you don’t take Route 1!”
Noonan said one area of concern is that fans who don’t have tickets may try to congregate near the stadium anyway, in hopes of catching snippets of the concert from a distance. In Philadelphia, thousands of Swifties brought lawn chairs, drinks, and snacks and partied outside Lincoln Financial Field while dressed in concert attire.
Noonan discouraged fans from trying that at Gillette, where the stadium is surrounded by a moat of concrete parking lots that are off-limits to anyone who does not have a ticket. Police and stadium security will collaborate to remove ticketless fans from the area, he said, and security at nearby Patriot Place may not take kindly to swarms of fans lingering around outside once the show starts.
“We’re asking people not to come to the stadium if they don’t have tickets. And to be honest with you, I’ve worked hundreds of stadium events including concerts, and many times you can sit outside the stadium and not hear the music because of the way the wind blows,” he said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the effort and aggravation to go sit in traffic for that long to get there.”
Travel to and from the stadium has become a topic of discussion — Gillette’s paid parking lots on the stadium side of Route 1 are sold out, as are two separate commuter rail trains from Boston. Those who can’t snag a spot in the free lots for ticket holders will need to make alternate plans.
As far as parking away from the stadium is concerned, fans will not be able to pay to park in Foxborough neighbors’ driveways and yards, after the town voted to ban the practice in 2012.
In neighboring Walpole, however, residents are allowed to offer parking on their private land if they obtain a permit from the town. Some have said they plan to sell space on their private lawns for as much as $50 a spot. Fans will then have to walk 25 minutes from Walpole to Gillette.
Walpole Police Chief Richard Kelleher, cautioned that often during large events, people arrange to secure spots in residents’ lots before the day of the concert, so they might already be fully booked.
He said he’s learned from experience that the traffic in town can be troublesome for Friday night events, because so many people leave home to head to the stadium later than they do on the weekends. He expects this Friday will be no different.
But they’re ready as always.
“We don’t mind the fact there’s traffic. We get that there’s going to be traffic,” Kelleher said. “We’re just trying to be mindful of the quality of life of people who live in South Walpole, who actually put up with quite a bit considering the venue isn’t even in their community.”
As for those who live in the shadow of the stadium, some have said they plan to hunker down for the weekend, or leave town entirely.
“Basically, if you live in Foxboro, don’t leave your house this weekend or go out after the show starts,” one local wrote in a Facebook group for the town.
Another person said they plan to do errands before traffic piles up.
“Living in Foxborough, you become aware of the traffic with stadium events,” the person wrote. “No big deal. Go with the flow.”
After years of football games and live concerts, they know the drill.
“Everyone that lives around Gillette Stadium is fully aware of the events that are coming up,” Noonan, of the Foxborough police, said. “Everyone has a different game day schedule, but everyone plans accordingly. We get great cooperation from our residents on these events.”