Everett officials are poised to return to the state Legislature for help in developing a prime waterfront parcel, with the hopes that it could used for a soccer stadium for the New England Revolution.
Backers of the stadium plan want language to open up the site included in a state supplemental budget that’s expected to emerge in the coming days, and to be passed before lawmakers wrap up formal sessions for the year in mid-November. The measure would lift restrictions on the parcel, home to a shuttered section of the Mystic power plant, so that nonindustrial uses can take place there.
This would be their second such effort. Last summer, the House of Representatives approved language in a broad-reaching economic development bill that would lift the industrial restrictions for this property. But the Senate did not agree, and the attempt fizzled. Now, proponents are hoping to try again with a goal of resolving the years-long search for a new home for the Revs so the team could move from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough to a purpose-built soccer stadium in the urban core of Greater Boston.
The property in question: a roughly 45-acre site on the Mystic River across Route 99 from the Encore casino. Wynn Resorts, which operates the casino, bought the power-plant site in March for $25 million from Constellation Energy. (Constellation still operates a remaining portion of the Mystic power plant next door, but that will close in mid-2024.)
Unfortunately for Wynn and Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s administration, the 45 acres sit within a Designated Port Area — a state-regulated zone designed to protect working ports from gentrification. There are two ways around such a restriction: removing a site from the DPA via the Legislature, or pursuing a boundary review with the state Office of Coastal Zone Management, an uncertain process that can last two or more years.
The House bill last year would have removed the Everett parcel from the DPA while also bypassing restrictions for tidelands regulated under a law geared at ensuring public waterfront access, known as Chapter 91. While the new language is still being refined, representatives for the city say they’re not looking to avoid the Chapter 91 review this time, in part to address previous concerns raised by environmentalists, and are mainly focused on removing the site from the DPA.
The Conservation Law Foundation objected to the Everett language last year, calling the maneuver a rush job without adequate public scrutiny aimed at benefiting the Kraft Group, which owns the Revs soccer team.
This time around, foundation president Bradley Campbell pushed the quiet negotiations into the public eye on Thursday with a critique on CommonWealth Magazine’s website. In a column titled “Backroom deal for Everett soccer stadium in works again,” Campbell refers to the language as a “stealth budget amendment” and argues Governor Maura Healey should veto the measure if it comes to her desk. While Campbell writes that a soccer stadium might be the “highest and best use” for the contaminated power plant site, this decision should be made in an “open and transparent process” that weighs competing industrial opportunities such as clean energy and includes enforceable measures to avoid impacts such as congestion and air pollution.
Reached by phone, Campbell said: “I don’t think anyone would consider this the right way to green-light a project that will have enormous impacts, and not just in Everett.”
Key lawmakers involved in the process either declined to comment or could not be reached.
For his part, DeMaria issued a statement saying he’s been open about his plans to replace outdated industrial uses with “a thriving, publicly-accessible waterfront” that offers economic opportunities for residents as well as walking paths and recreational space. DeMaria added that environmental advocates have been involved in “discussions about a vision for a better future for Everett.” He also noted in a separate statement that a stadium proposal at the site would still face extensive vetting by various city and state agencies.
A spokesman for Wynn on Thursday said the company is supportive of the idea of a soccer stadium at that location. Keeping quiet entirely: the Revs, which did not provide a comment when asked for one.