Plans for a roughly 25,000-seat soccer stadium in Everett have hit another major setback after legislative leaders dropped a measure considered crucial to the project.
The state Senate recently lifted hopes about a new home getting built for the New England Revolution by including stadium language in a supplemental budget bill advancing on Beacon Hill. But that measure did not survive in a compromise bill that emerged on Thursday.
The proposal would have removed 43 acres from what’s known as a Designated Port Area, a state designation for waterfronts that precludes nonindustrial uses. Getting the stadium parcel, across Route 99 from the Encore Boston Harbor casino and on Boston’s doorstep, out of the DPA is necessary to any stadium plans there.
The House had proposed similar language in an economic development bill in 2022, but it did not survive House-Senate negotiations a year ago. This time around, though, it was the House leadership, not the Senate, that balked.
The Legislature’s chief budget negotiators, Representative Aaron Michlewitz of Boston and Senator Michael Rodrigues of Westport, ended up unveiling a nearly $3 billion spending agreement that did not include the Senate’s stadium language.
What happens next remains unclear. But the fate of any stadium project in Everett will not be decided on Beacon Hill until next year at the earliest.
Supporters of the proposal could file a standalone bill to remove the land from the DPA in 2024, or they could try attaching it again to a broader piece of legislation. Another option is a regulatory review at the state Office of Coastal Zone Management, a protracted and uncertain process. Governor Maura Healey has not taken a public position but she has been supportive of the stadium behind the scenes.
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria is eager to bring more dining, entertainment, and hospitality businesses to this section of Everett, known as Lower Broadway, to complement the Wynn Resorts casino and other plans that Wynn has for the area. Wynn bought the stadium property, home now to the shuttered portion of the Mystic power plant, in March for $25 million.
One big question that looms large: Will the Kraft Group, which has long sought a new home for the Revs, keep trying for the site in the new year? Today, the soccer team shares Gillette Stadium in Foxborough with the Krafts’ other pro team, the Patriots. But the Krafts would prefer a purpose-built facility for soccer, in or near Boston.
“The city of Everett and local officials approached the Kraft Group to help clean up a dilapidated power plant and brownfield site in an Environmental Justice community by replacing it with what we saw as an opportunity to bring waterfront access and economic development to the region with a potential soccer stadium and public waterfront park,” Revolution president Brian Bilello said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the Legislature did not clear a path forward to determine the feasibility of this project and that the public process was halted before it could begin.”
DeMaria signaled that he has not given up hope on the project.
“I continue to maintain the position that a privately-funded professional soccer stadium, which would invest millions into an historic remediation effort of a defunct power plant, provide economic mobility opportunities for our Everett residents, advance the region’s multi-modal transit network, and create much-needed access to the Mystic River would be the best use of that portion of Everett’s waterfront,” DeMaria said in a statement on Thursday.
Senator Sal DiDomenico of Everett had tried to bring environmental and community groups on board after the Everett legislation died last year, in an effort to secure their support. Eventually, these talks resulted in a community benefits agreement between DeMaria and the Krafts that became public less than three weeks ago.
“I’m disappointed it wasn’t included in the final ... language,” DiDomenico said of the stadium language. “We deserve something better than a polluted power plant on our waterfront. This is a transformational project and an economic catalyst for the area. I am hopeful that we can find a resolution in the very near future.”
As part of the agreement that DiDomenico shepherded, the Krafts would have provided a range of concessions if the legislation passed, including four acres for a waterfront park and a pledge to limit on-site parking to 75 spaces.
The Krafts also promised at least $5 million for a community center, $10 million for a housing stabilization fund, and $750,000 for park renovations in Charlestown, among other things. If removed from the DPA, the project would still require extensive state and local permitting reviews.
House leaders said they were surprised by some elements of the agreement when it emerged. Representative Michael Moran of Boston, the House majority leader, said it was not clear why resolving this issue should be rushed as part of a supplemental budget.
“Because of the way in which we became aware of the [benefits agreement], it was clear that we needed more time to consider its contents,” Moran said earlier this week.
DeMaria and the Krafts also found themselves up against lobbying on behalf of rivals such as those at TD Garden operator Delaware North. The Krafts likely would have used the new stadium to host concerts, posing competition for the nearly 20,000-seat venue in Boston. A spokeswoman for the TD Garden declined to comment.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu also weighed in two weeks ago, expressing surprise through a spokesman that her administration was not involved in the talks that led to the community benefits deal. Much of the stadium traffic would come through Charlestown, across the Mystic from the site, and a small piece of the power plant property actually crosses the Everett-Boston line.
The Conservation Law Foundation, meanwhile, has fought the stadium legislation since the previous version first emerged last year. CLF maintains that a more thorough review of all the state’s port areas is necessary before the stadium site gets this exemption — not after, as proposed in the Senate legislation.
CLF president Bradley Campbell said the decision to leave the stadium language out of the budget bill “strikes a blow for transparency, open government, and sound planning.”
“It’s important that we not look at the working waterfront on a site-by-site basis,” Campbell said. “And if there are changes made, [they should be] part of a thoughtful plan and not a special play for a single well-heeled developer.”