Major League Soccer announced Wednesday that the commissioner's office will work closely with the Kraft family, investor-operators of the New England Revolution, to begin the process of finding a permanent home for the MLS club in a new soccer-specific stadium. The team currently plays in the 68,756-seat Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., which is also home to the Kraft-owned New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL).
"We're thrilled to work with the Kraft Family to secure a soccer-specific stadium for the Revolution that will provide fans the same intimate environment other supporters enjoy in many MLS markets," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "Soccer-specific stadiums are a key driver in our business, and we have many examples in MLS of how these venues positively impact a team's performance both on and off the field. We recognize that while Gillette Stadium is probably more conducive to soccer than any other NFL venue, the Revolution and their fans deserve their own soccer stadium. Our goal is to have every MLS team playing in a stadium that is built or reconstructed for soccer."
MLS will soon issue a Request For Information from communities in the greater Boston area and New England to begin the search for a suitable home for the Revs. The league has used similar RFI processes to help secure stadiums for the Chicago Fire (Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.) and FC Dallas (Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas). The RFI process consists of local communities submitting to the league a description of community interest in soccer, analysis of potential stadium sites and possible sources of public funding to assist stadium construction costs.
Four soccer-specific stadiums are currently in use in MLS, housing five teams. Columbus Crew Stadium was the first to open in 1999 and was followed by The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., in 2003. That facility is the home stadium for both the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. Pizza Hut Park opened last season and hosted the 2005 MLS Cup. It will host this year's championship match as well. The newest soccer-specific stadium in MLS is Toyota Park, which hosted its first MLS match last weekend and will celebrate its grand opening on June 25. The 2006 MLS All-Star Game will be held at Toyota Park.
Two more stadiums will join the fold in 2007 when new facilities open to house the Colorado Rapids and expansion side Toronto FC. Both stadiums are currently under construction. A new stadium for the New York Red Bulls is also in the works in Harrison, N.J., and is expected to be completed in 2008. Stadium plans are also being pursued for D.C. United, Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo, as well as a new Philadelphia-area facility in Glassboro, N.J., to be used be a possible expansion team.
The MLS stadiums generally seat between 20,000 and 30,000 and are often modeled after European soccer stadiums to provide an intimacy that is often lost in the much larger American football or baseball stadiums that are used in some MLS markets. MLS teams playing in stadiums they own and operate have distinct advantages in scheduling, sponsorships and ancillary revenue streams.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.