FOXBOROUGH — Just in time for Sunday’s Patriots season opener, Gillette Stadium is now whole.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday evening marked the completion of a $250 million renovation project that completely enclosed the formerly open-air north end of the stadium with entertainment and function space, the largest curved videoboard in the country, and an enlarged tourist-destination lighthouse.
Construction took 16 months to complete, and it marked the latest Kraft family-funded renovation of the stadium that opened in May 2002.
“We don’t take for granted fan support and how important that is — it’s very important to us that we keep this stadium fresh and be something that the fans want to continue to come to,” said owner Robert Kraft, who along with his son, Jonathan, noted the family has spent more than $500 million in renovations and improvements over the years.
“We’re constantly trying to think about the things that make sense because you can’t always control the outcome on the field, but we’d like to think that the guest experience in the building is something that we have a little more control over,” said Jonathan Kraft. “We’re never perfect, but we’re focused on it. So we’re really excited about the renovations.”
In February, the Patriots announced they were hiking prices stadium-wide and decreasing parking fees.
A new high-tech, nearly seamless security screening will take place on the outer edge of a new landscaped plaza outside the north end, with ticket turnstiles located just in front of the stadium. The idea is not only to eliminate pinch-points in the entrance process, but also to create an informal gathering space before games and events.
“We now finally have a front door to Gillette Stadium,” said Jonathan Kraft. “Gillette Stadium never really had that destination sense of place that it will now.
“As we said when we built Gillette, we wanted to build a regional asset. When you build these things privately, you need to create spaces that people want to come to 365 days a year.”
The GP Atrium is a 50,000 square foot meeting and function space, “which there’s really not enough of in the state,” said Jonathan Kraft. “And 1,000 people will be able to sit down and have a sit-down dinner and function and we’ll continue to draw more regional economic activity to Foxborough and Gillette Stadium.”
Jen Ferron, chief marketing officer for Kraft Sports & Entertainment, announced that the enlarged 22-story lighthouse will open to the public on non-event days beginning Oct. 1.
A 360-degree observation deck atop the tallest lighthouse in the country will offer panoramic views of both Boston and Providence, a birds-eye view of the stadium and several hands-free camera options for the obligatory selfie opportunities.
Except for children under 10, members of the military, veterans, first responders, and season-ticket holders of the Patriots and Revolution, visitors will pay $5. Net proceeds from the admission fees will be earmarked for New England charities.
The lighthouse will be integrated into the game-day experience, said Ferron.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.