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Foxboro’s Future Uncertain

November 20, 1998

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) _ Gone will be the screaming fans, the tailgate parties and the painted faces, along with $840,000 in tax revenue. So what future has Foxboro as its NFL franchise heads to Hartford, Conn.?

``We survived before them, quite well, as a matter of fact,″ said Foxboro General Store owner Ron Haley, a 35-year area resident who predicted his business will do just fine without the New England Patriots hosting home games down the road.

The Patriots have been in Massachusetts since their formation in 1960, and relocated from the Boston area to Foxboro in 1971.

Under a memo of understanding signed by the team and Connecticut on Thursday, the Patriots are expected to begin playing in a new $350 million Hartford stadium in the fall of 2001.

Borrowing the $350 million will not hurt Connecticut’s credit rating _ if the money can be recouped from revenue generated by the project, analysts said Friday.

Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland has promised the project will be ``revenue neutral,″ meaning it will pay for itself over the 30-year life of the stadium lease.

Preliminary figures compiled by the accounting firm of KPMG Peat Marwick show the state will earn about $15.6 million dollars from stadium-related taxes during the first year, Rowland spokeswoman Nuala Forde said.

But analyst Arthur Dial, with Standard & Poor’s, said it is far too early to say whether the project will truly pay for itself, or if it will have a positive impact on the state economy.

``Certainly, I don’t think we’ve ever upgraded an entity because of a sports team moving in,″ Dial said. ``This is a situation where we will have to wait and see how it plays out.″

Massachusetts will lose more than $5 million a year in income and sales taxes from the team and its stadium concessions, according to state officials. Some put the number closer to $10 million.

Foxboro itself _ 25 miles southwest of Boston _ collects more than $840,000 in ticket revenue and parking permits. Officials estimate the stadium, also home to the New England Revolution, contributed more than $3.3 million annually to area businesses and charitable organizations.

Owner Robert Kraft has yet to decide what will become of the 60,200-seat Foxboro Stadium, other than to say the Revolution will continue to play major league soccer there.

The planned move leaves western Massachusetts, once again, feeling less than patriotic toward Boston and not quite cozy with Hartford.

Springfield residents, for example, will be just 25 miles from the new Patriots home.

The prospect makes fan Rick Leshinski happy for himself but disgusted with his state.

``I think it stinks that Massachusetts has lost the team,″ he said during a break from his workout at the local YMCA. ``Massachusetts, I feel, just doesn’t want to support their teams like they should.″

But you bet he’ll be going to more games.

In the Boston area, nearer the Patriots’ current home, fans are having an easier time sorting out their feelings. They pretty much boil down to regret and resentment.

Take Bostonian Dennis D. Doherty, a 32-year-old season ticket holder who hasn’t missed a home game in five years.

The move to Hartford, about 100 miles from Boston, would break his streak. So much for his days of grilling steaks and serving lobster to his two brothers and half-dozen friends in the lots surrounding Foxboro Stadium.

He blames state House Speaker Thomas Finneran for blocking a proposal to build a new stadium in Massachusetts.

``If they would have put it to a vote within the Massachusetts community, I’m sure it would have passed,″ Doherty said.

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