The Kraft sports organization and the New England Revolution have been looking for a downtown Boston stadium since… well, forever.


That tweet—about the lack of movement on a long-promised Boston stadium—is itself about six years old. Fans have been tracking fruitless stadium rumors for nearly two decades.


While they’ve yet to deliver on their promises to bring soccer to the Boston area, some recent progress has Revs fans feeling hopeful.

On April 2nd, with the backing of the city of Everett, Brian Bilello spoke at a public hearing in support of a waterfront stadium along the Mystic River.  The site is currently occupied by a decommissioned power plant next to the Wynn Casino.


There’s plenty of space available for a proposed 25,000-seat stadium, but maybe not enough for parking.


That focus on accessibility by public transit, at the expense of car travel, represents a shift from the current paradigm for Revolution fans.  Most fans currently get to games by car because, with rare exceptions, there isn’t really another option.

For Bilello and the Krafts, the shift is necessary as they attempt to gently guide the project through all of the necessary approvals. But change, however necessary it may be, can cause discomfort.

I set out to gauge reactions from the existing fanbase to the proposed stadium’s benefits and drawbacks through a series of Twitter polls.


Let’s examine the findings together and determine how the proposed Everett stadium is received by the Revolution faithful.


Data Limitations

I want to get it out of the way early here; this likely isn’t truly representative fan data.

There are reasons that companies put so much money into finding focus groups when they want honest opinions on a product or service.  I don’t have the resources or connections to put together a truly representative group.

What I have is a Twitter account.

The issue with polling Twitter, specifically on the #NERevs hashtag (the official tag used by the Revolution), is that the people most likely to see and respond to these polls are probably already strongly invested in their fandom. In fact, according to the first question I asked, 55% of respondents reported having been Revs fans for over 10 years. A full 80% of respondents are 5+ years invested in the club.

The issue with selecting (unintentionally) long-time fans is that they will very likely have made the Revs’ current setup a part of their lives.  Gillette stadium will be, for all of its faults, comfortable and familiar.


I would love to have had the luxury of a diverse and representative focus group of respondents, but, in Danny Pudi’s words, “Larry, I’m on DuckTales.”


Why Everett?

So, if the caveat to this article is “existing long-term fans make up a large percentage of the responses,” it’s probably worth noting that an urban stadium isn’t really for those types of people.

It sounds harsh, but I think there’s a strong case to be made that the impetus behind building a new stadium is to attract new fans.  To put the product front-and-center among a new subset of the population.  There are tons (I mean tons) of people who prefer other sports to soccer.  The goal will be to make it as easy as possible for the highest possible number of people to attend a Revs game.

Additionally, younger, more urban fans have been among MLS’ strongest and most loyal demographics for well over a decade now.  Boston has an outsized percentage of college students and young professionals, making it a very attractive location.

The issue isn’t in selecting the location; it’s getting the land and approvals to build.  Everett represents the latest (and possibly best) attempt to get a stadium project underway.  The location has its drawbacks (we’ll get to those). But given the Krafts’ decades-long history of failing to procure a stadium site, it’s maybe the best they’ll get.


Distance/Maps

Since there are no reliable public transportation options for fans to get to Gillette Stadium, fans realistically have to arrive by car.  I wanted to gauge first how long it took Revs fans to drive to a game.

A quick note: To make these charts more readable, the legend will always be organized from the highest percentage (at the top/lightest blue) to the lowest percentage (at the bottom/darkest blue).

What we see here is that 74% of existing Revs fans drive over 30 minutes to attend games, and 34% of respondents said they drive over an hour. The most common driving time, however, is between 30 and 60 minutes.

For reference, using a travel time map, this is what a 30-60 minute driving radius looks like to Gillette Stadium.

The red radius here is the 60-minute distance, while the blue is 30 minutes. Comfortably between those two edges are Boston and Providence—the #1 and #3 largest population cities in New England. The second largest city, Worcester, is right on the edge of the 60-minute boundary. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the largest number of respondents reported driving times in that 30—to 60-minute range.

For what it’s worth, here is a map with a 30-minute drive-time overlay for both Gillette and the proposed Everett stadium location.

There isn’t a ton of overlap here.  If you live within 30 minutes of Gillette stadium, it’s unlikely you live closer to the proposed Everett stadium site.  That, in conjunction with this poll, indicates that a good amount of fans live south of the Boston area.

58% of respondents will have to travel further than they do now to attend a game in Everett.  That’s a significant chunk of the existing fanbase to expect to travel further for games.


So, What’s the Rub?

To put it plainly, it’s population.

Thanks to the app at maps.ie, we can estimate that that 30-minute driving radius around Gillette contains about 1.22M residents.  That’s approximate since I’ve had to manually draw the lines.

Let’s compare that to a 30-minute radius around the proposed Everett site. The shoddy nature of my hand-drawn map boundary is again a consideration. Or, rather, it would be…

…if it were even close.

Over double the number of people—approximately 2.47 million—live within a 30-minute drive of Everett compared to those within 30 minutes of Foxboro.

If I narrow that map radius to include only the MBTA subway system (the T) and surrounding neighborhoods, we still have 1.15 million residents.

That’s a lot of numbers and maps to say something fairly obvious:  The Revs want to put their stadium close to the largest number of people, and being in – or near – the most populous city in the region will help with that.


OK, But What About Parking?

Initial verbiage in a bill supporting a Revolution soccer stadium in Everett indicated that only 75 parking spots would be allowed to be constructed.  That’s a far cry from the over 20,000 spots available to Revs fans at Gillette Stadium now.

According to Brian Bilello, the organization wants to pull focus away from cars and onto public transit options.  As someone who is well acquainted with the MBTA, it all makes sense to me.  But this does leave us with a fanbase that is very used to driving, and seemingly provides them with no integrated way to drive to the games.

People are somewhat mixed on whether or not they’d like to use public transit to access Revolution games.  Given the “T”s track record, that may be fair.  Furthermore, for many who live further away, it may not even be feasible.

More concerning, for the project is that a full 24% of respondents indicated that they wouldn’t go to a Revs game if parking were not available.

This, of course, leaves 76% that still would go.  50% said they would likely park at or near public transportation and use the T system to go the rest of the way.  22% said they would rather pay to use a nearby private parking lot and walk to the stadium.  Just 4% said they would make use of a cab or rideshare service.


Losing Suburban Support?

That 24% of people indicating they would rather not go to games has to be concerning for the Revs.

For people who live outside the Boston Metro area, getting to games could be more difficult. As a result, it’s not surprising that when asked, 40% of respondents who don’t live near Boston said they would be less likely to attend Revolution matches in Everett than they are now. That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that they would never go. But it’s alarming, nonetheless, to have 40% of non-Boston-area fans say they are less likely to go to games.

Can the Revs make up for that dip in support?

They’ll certainly be banking on increased support from Boston area fans.  And it seems like they could get it.  52% of respondents who identified as living within the Boston Metropolitan area said they would be more likely to attend Revolution games if the stadium were in Everett.

Convincing those living in the Boston area to go to Everett is half the battle.  The other half of the battle – the more difficult part – will be convincing the 97% of Boston sports fans who don’t currently list the Revs as their favorite sports team to give the Revolution a chance.


Atmosphere Is King

One way to do that, from a stadium perspective, is to deliver a high-quality atmosphere.  That’s something that current Revs fans are really excited about.

The biggest, most consistent gripe with Gillette Stadium for Revolution games is that with an average of ~23,000 fans (in 2023) filling the lower bowl of a ~70,000 seat stadium things can feel a little… empty.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the Revs might attract more fans just by virtue of having fewer seats available.  A smaller stadium that is full would provide not only a more intimate viewing experience but also would very likely feel louder and more exciting.

71% of fans agreed that increased in-stadium atmosphere was the thing they looked forward to the most regarding a new stadium.

But at what cost??

It’s all well and good to say that MLS and the Revolution want an urban stadium to introduce more fans to their league and to the beautiful game.

But that’s not really what a new stadium represents to the Krafts or to the league.  A new stadium is a way to increase attendance and, in turn, increase profits.  Evidence suggests that ticket costs increase the year following a new stadium being built.  Costs that typically don’t come back down.

Current Revolution fans seemed well aware of that possibility, with 29% of respondents indicating that was what they looked forward to the least.

More fans – 33% – were most worried about a potential Everett stadium being more difficult to access.  21% of respondents were concerned about a potential lack of tailgating, while a lack of parking was front of mind for 17% of those polled.

There’s still a long way to go for the Revolution in their bid for an urban stadium.  They’re nowhere near the finish line, and there are opponents to this stadium ranging from competing stadium venues to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.  If they are able to pull it off, it’s clear that fans would be mostly excited, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns.  Some of those concerns, especially parking and cost, could be enough to keep current fans from attending games.


The Krafts and the Revolution hope to offset those potential losses by attracting new, younger, urban fans. They could also get a head start, in my opinion, by putting a better product on the field.
Even if that field is surrounded by mostly empty seats in a football stadium.

PHOTO: New England Revolution

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