Kraft’s bid for an urban soccer stadium hits another dead end
University of Massachusetts officials have broken off talks with the Kraft Group to build a soccer stadium near the UMass Boston campus amid concerns from some local elected officials about its potential impact on the area.
For years, the Krafts have been searching for an urban location in the Boston area that could accommodate the New England Revolution, a team that currently shares Gillette Stadium with the New England Patriots. In the past year, the search involved talks with UMass officials about the former Bayside Expo Center property on Columbia Point that the university owns.
But a spokesman on Thursday night said those talks have ended.
“I think it’s well documented that there had been conversations over time about the potential for a stadium-anchored development at the site,” UMass spokesman Jeff Cournoyer said Thursday night. “It doesn’t appear feasible at this point.”
The Krafts and UMass were discussing a scenario in which the Kraft Group would enter into a long-term lease for the site, with the team ownership privately financing the project. But they couldn’t come to an agreement on a price with the Boston Teachers Union, which owns an adjacent property that was needed for the stadium.
While the teachers union property was considered important to the deal, discussions also involved using just the 20-acre Bayside Expo property for the stadium.
However, the project also ran into resistance from local officials, who worried that traffic could overwhelm the already congested area. Critics included US Representative Stephen Lynch, state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, and state Representatives Nick Collins and Dan Hunt.
“The original proposal to put a soccer stadium out there would have been disastrous for South Boston and Dorchester,” said at-large City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who lives in South Boston. “There’s only so much one neighborhood can handle. For those guys to put the stadium over there, I think, was shortsighted.”
Lynch, a South Boston resident, said he didn’t think building a soccer stadium or concert venue was in keeping with the university’s educational mission. He also said he couldn’t see how the Krafts and UMass could make the project work at that property, given the traffic jams that plague the area at rush hour.
“Plopping down a 20,000 . . . seat stadium would have made the problem that much worse,” Lynch said. “Perhaps [the Krafts] will find some better locations that we can support down the road.”
Robert Kraft, chairman of the Kraft Group, declined to comment Thursday night.
UMass acquired the former Bayside Expo site in 2010 for $18.7 million and has been using it for parking. The university recently completed demolishing the convention center that once stood there.
University officials see the opportunity for a transformative project there. They say the next steps would be to issue a request for information from potential developers to solicit ideas about how to reuse the property, but it’s not clear when that will happen.
The collapse of the stadium deal comes as UMass Boston leadership is in turmoil. Chancellor J. Keith Motley said earlier this month that he will step down from the top job at the end of the school year as the university wrestles with a significant financial deficit.
UMass president Martin Meehan had hired former Bowdoin College president Barry Mills to oversee daily operations at the campus. Mills will now act as the school’s interim chancellor starting in July as Meehan searches for a replacement for Motley, who will take a one-year sabbatical before returning as a faculty member.
Meanwhile, the Krafts will likely continue to search for a stadium site. They would like to build a stadium that could accommodate at least 20,000 fans, something much smaller than the nearly 70,000-seat football stadium in Foxborough where the Patriots and the Revolution play today. Most Major League Soccer teams have their own stadiums.