For over 30 years the Patriots played at Foxboro Stadium, a spartan $7 million venue which
arguably could have been called the worst venue in the NFL. When Robert Kraft assumed
ownership of the franchise in 1994, building a new stadium became a high priority. Fans
supported the new owner by buying season tickets in droves and the team has enjoyed a
string of consecutive sellouts going back to shortly after Kraft purchased the team.
In 2000, the fans were rewarded when plans for a new venue were unveiled, and the
stadium was to be built with private financing, while public funds would be committed for
infrastructure improvements. This past May, the doors opened to Gillette Stadium, the
spectacular new home of the New England Patriots and the MLS New England Revolution.
Located on the same grounds as the old Foxboro Stadium, since demolished, Gillette
Stadium takes its place as one of the elite new venues in the National Football League.
Getting to the Venue
Located in Foxboro, about 35 miles south of downtown Boston, there is but one way in and
one way out, and that is U.S. Highway 1. Interstate highways bisect US 1 from the north and
south, but the on ramps to the interstates are miles away. Once on US 1, there are six lanes
open, with traffic cones moved about to provide as much auto capacity as possible. But
basically the advice is to leave ample time to get here, since traffic really gets snarled up
and there are no road alternatives. The other option is to take the MBTA Commuter Train
from the South Station in downtown Boston... the Attleboro/Providence line has a special
stop at Gillette Stadium for events only.
Parking at the stadium costs $25.... that's right $25, the highest fee we have encountered so
far. OK... perhaps one can park at a satellite lot and save a few bucks in exchange for a
longer walk? Well, the private lots we saw charge $30, and some $35. Why more expensive?
Outside the venue
The topography of the stadium property here is one of rolling hills, trees and meadows, not
unlike our own venue in Orchard Park, New York. With freshly striped and paved lots
holding over 14,000 cars, tailgating is a big ritual here at Pats games, and these New
England fans can tailgate with the best of them. We encountered decorated cars and motor
homes, music blaring and colorful canopies all over the place. Ford dealerships are the
"sponsors" of the parking lots, and lots are named after various Ford automobiles (we were
parked in the "Windstar" section). Another interesting amenity was the presence of
vending machines selling soda, juice and bottled water at a reasonable price. Upon our
entry was a sign reading "no open flames" but this prohibition was universally ignored as
the grills were in abundance.
Getting out of the lot is a real chore --- every car in the building spilling out onto US 1. What
a mess! Interestingly, the club and suite lot which is located closest to the stadium has its
own dedicated ramps and overpasses to whisk them over the masses and right onto the
main road. Must be nice!! Now we understood why satellite lots farther away from the
stadium cost more to park... one gets out of here and home much more quickly!
Let's start with the main entrance, which is at the north end zone of the stadium. The
stadium is built into the side of a hill, and the main walkway serves as an avenue of flags, of
sorts, bearing the flags of all the NFL teams. The main gates spill into a massive public
plaza, with beautiful landscape formations and a granite sculpture of a map of New England,
making for a great photo opp. Look to the left and you'll find the Patriots Pro Shop, their
main team store. Massive concourse ramps taking you to the upper levels are on either
side, and they are adorned with huge canvas banners of former Patriots greats (These
banners adorn the entire building and look quite striking).
Walk straight ahead and you will see the signature architectural element of Gillette Stadium
- a tall replica of a lighthouse, symbolizing this region's long heritage as an ocean
community. The base of the lighthouse is at field level, and here are rock formations and
landscaping designed to give the feel of a true ocean breakwall. A replica arched bridge
traverses right next to the lighthouse, and here also where you get your first glimpse of the
impressive seating bowl. Go to the rail just steps from the playing surface and you can
watch the Patriots players emerge from the locker room and run onto the field, up close and
Both upper and lower concourses are wide and spacious, brightly lit, and the attractive
neon canopies of the many varied concession and souvenir stands add to a festive look.
The only way to get up and down is via stairs and ramps... no escalator towers. One of the
unique things about both the 100 and 300 level concourses is that at both levels one can
get a view of the seating bowl.
The seating bowl
68,000 seats are broken into three levels. The 6000 club seats are located on the 200 level,
and run between the 20 yard lines. The 200 seats in the corners are regular seats, and are
accessed via the 100 level concourse. The seats are team colors - mostly blue with the club
seats colored red. Above the club level are two levels of suites spanning the sidelines. In
each end zone are massive HDTV video boards offering a clarity and crispness that we
have not seen anywhere else. And our favorite - digital LED effects boards, run across the
sidelines directly above the club seats. And the lighthouse and bridge in the north end
zone. Oh, and lots of bridges and ramps offering fans the chance to view the game from
different vantage points. This stadium easily offers one of the most attractive seating bowls
in the NFL!
Club seat and suite ticket holders have their own private entrance on each sideline.
Escalators take you up to a beautifully appointed dining and entertainment area located in a
multi storied glass atrium, with dramatic views of the scenery outside. And of course...
premium parking with designated ingress and egress to US 1.
The food selection here is amazing - neon canopied concessions named Boston Common,
Berkshire Grill, Federal Hill, Freeport Fryer, Nantucket Sound and Granite State Grill offer
everything from meatball subs to pulled pork barbecue to chicken wings to New England
clam chowder to garlic fries. Unbelievable menu selection. And let's not forget the big
McDonalds restaurants in each end zone. If all the tailgate food hasn't filled you up then you
will not be disappointed in the selection here. Satellite souvenir stands are also in
Retired numbers and banners
Just ONE banner in the seating bowl - celebrating the Patriots stunning 2001 season Super
Bowl championship. The Patriots have retired seven players - Cappelletti, Haynes, Nelson,
Hannah, Armstrong, Hunt and Dee. Their murals hang amongst other Patriots greats and
adorn the outside walls and ramps around the venue.
Touchdowns, extra points, fumbles
Touchdown - to the great Patriots fans who have sold out their venue six years running and
have snapped up every available season ticket. The waiting list for season tickets is at
50,000 and growing. Great to see such dedicated fans rewarded with a World Championship.
Extra point - and speaking of tickets, prices for non-premium seats run from $49-$99. Add
the 25 beans to park and refreshments, and this all adds up to one expensive day at the
stadium. The Patriots price structure ranks at the top of the list from what we have seen.
Extra point - the Patriots have bucked the trend in two different ways - instead of raking the
public with the bill for a stadium, they financed all this privately. Also there was no personal
seat license requirement to buy season tickets. Of course, this means higher ticket prices
overall. Nobody who we talked to seems to be complaining, however.
Fumble- to CMGI Information Services. CMGI is a Boston area based internet capital
company whose best attribute was burning cash and piling up losses while driving their
stock price down to pennies. CMGI grabbed the naming rights to the venue, but when the
bill came due for their commitment they took a hike. Gillette came in and saved the day, but
all the directional signage in the parking lot, the concourses, and even the staff uniforms
and beer cups still bear the "CMGI Field" name and logo. Looks like CMGI will have to burn
yet some more cash to correct the signage before they take their place on the NASDAQ
scrap heap. (Disclosure - Andrew has 500 shares of CMGI)
Fumble - with all the great scoreboards and HDTV technology, simple out of town scores
were presented sparingly. This is not rocket science folks, but a scrolling ticker is a must in
today's NFL venue.
Touchdown - to the Patriots superior event presentation. Minutemen in the north end zone
fired their muskets after each Patriots score. Also, continuing a tradition going back to the
Super Bowl, the players took the field AS A TEAM, with no individual introductions. Lastly, a
flyover by the actual first two fighter jets which arrived to defend New York City on 9-11
provided an emotional moment.
Extra point - in these days of heightened security, each fan is searched while going through
the turnstiles. Interestingly, there were "women only" lines where female security guards
were assigned to do the same gender search. That is called being sensitive and thinking of
the fans as valued customers.
Touchdown - One of the wildest games witnessed on our tour, with a see saw battle going
into overtime, and won by the Pats on an Adam Vinatieri field goal on the OT's first
To the newest members of the Ultimate Sports Road Trip Hall of Fame - Pete's Aunt Fran and
Uncle Rick Cowan live in nearby Franklin and graciously put us up in their home for our two
night stay here. Thanks for the hospitality!
Also thanks to the New England Patriots. As we mentioned, tickets are a scarce and
precious commodity, and after we were shut out of tickets through the ticketmaster
process, we took a chance and wrote to Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Lo and behold, a week
goes by, and we get a call from VP/Community Relations Meg Vaillancourt, who told us that
Mr. Kraft got our letter and directed to help us out. The Patriots got us into their building
and fixed us up with great seats to boot. THANK YOU Mr. Kraft and Mrs. Vaillancourt and you
are also enshrined in the USRT Hall of Fame!
Great fans, great tailgating, wonderful architecture, beautiful seating bowl, awesome
concessions, and a superb game day experience. Make no mistake - go to Gillette Stadium
and see the Patriots and you will be treated to an outstanding time. As we stepped through
the turnstile, we were in awe of the overwhelming ambience of the place which really
dazzled the senses. Deductions are small but important - the lack of escalator towers to the
upper levels, and the horrific traffic pattern outside the venue which is badly in need of
further fine tuning are probably the only things we can find fault with.
Food and team store 9
Scoreboard and electronics 7
Fan support 8
Location and neighborhood 2
Banners and history 8
In game entertainment 7
Concourses/fan comfort 7.5
Bonus: Tailgate scene 3, Bridge/lighthouse 1; Minutemen 2; USRT assist 2