The New England Revolution are one of the charter members of Major League Soccer. They have played their home games at Gillette Stadium since its opening in 2002. Gillette Stadium is located in suburban Foxborough, Massachusetts, 21 miles from downtown Boston and 20 miles from downtown Providence, Rhode Island. In addition to serving as home of the Revolution, it more notably serves as the home field of the National Football League’s New England Patriots. It is one of only two current stadiums to serve as home to both an MLS and NFL team.
As you might expect, sharing a venue with your big brother from the NFL is not an ideal situation for an MLS team. Most notably, Gillette Stadium’s listed capacity for American football is 68,756. For Revolution games the capacity is reduced to 20,000. This necessitates the closing of the entire upper deck, as well as several seating sections and concessions on the lower deck. Signage and sponsor ads throughout the stadium are Patriots-themed, and the Revolution brand can be difficult to find amid all the Patriots gear. From a game play perspective, the playing field consists of FieldTurf, which is a durable surface for football, but is not suited well to the game of soccer.
Despite the negatives that go along with being a small fish in a big pond, the Revolution put on a good show, and a visit to Foxborough is a worthwhile experience for any soccer fan.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
During Revolution games, only a portion of the 38 permanent concession stands at Gillette Stadium are open for business. This does not mean, however, that soccer fans visiting Foxboro will have to settle for a reduced menu. There is still a great deal of variety and quality of food inside the stadium to satisfy the most hungry soccer fans.
In 2012 Gillette Stadium revamped their concession stands, rebranding them all, offering new and healthier choices to the menus, and expanding the offerings for the fans. Gone are the New England-themed concession stands, replaced by stands such as the Market Fresh Deli, Smokehouse Grill, and Champions Brew Pub. Along with new menu items, new signage and menu boards were installed. In addition to standard stadium fare such as chicken wings, sausage and pepper sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas, new items such as salads, fresh deli sandwiches, vegetables with hummus, and a variety of BBQ items are now available. Lines are generally short, even during halftime, making it possible to make it to the concession stands and back without missing much, if any, of the action.
Don't let this emphasis on healthier foods fool you. You can still get plenty of junk food and adult beverages should the mood strike you. Draft beers are available at all the permanent concession stands, as well as at several portable beer carts that line the wide concourse. Remember, you will be paying NFL prices at a Revolution game. Draft beers cost $9 for a 16 ounce cup, and $11 for a 22 ounce cup. A great variety of beer is offered, and each stand sells a unique brand or two, so you may need to do a little searching to find your preferred beverage.
Another positive aspect of the concession operations at Gillette Stadium is the strong record of food safety here. Gillette Stadium is routinely ranked among the best venues in the country in terms of food safety, with no critical violations over several years of operation.
For most North American sports fans, the atmosphere at a soccer match is like nothing else they will have come across before. Supporter groups come to Gillette Stadium in an organized fashion, beginning their night with some pre-game tailgating before entering the stadium en masse before kickoff. And that's where the real fun begins.
These supporter groups, the Midnight Riders (from Boston), the Rebellion (from Providence), and La Barra (Latino fans), congregate in "The Fort," which encompasses the sections of the north end zone (the one by the lighthouse). They spend much of the match singing, waving flags, chanting, and generally trying to make life miserable for the visiting squad for 90 minutes. While this type of behavior is the norm around the world, it is unique in North America to soccer matches. The atmosphere can become infectious, and in a perfect world the antics of the supporter groups spread throughout the stadium.
Unfortunately, this perfect world does not exist at Gillette Stadium. The sheer size of the stadium prevents the noise emanating from The Fort from traveling throughout the crowd. On many nights The Fort is only half-full. To avoid having the average Revolution crowd of 15,000 from being swallowed up in a 70,000 seat venue, the entire upper deck and parts of the main deck are closed to spectators. While this does create a more cohesive crowd, the noise generated by the Fort is swallowed up by the emptiness of Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution staff do make great efforts to improve the game night atmosphere at Gillette Stadium. The End Zone Militia are present at Revolution games, punctuating goals by the home team with their trademark salute. Fans throughout the stadium sport the Revolution colors, and the traditional scarves and flags are present throughout. Banners are hung on the front of the press box commemorating the Revolution's only championships, the 2007 US Open Cup, and the 2008 North American SuperLiga. Put this same crowd with the same energy in a 20,000 seat soccer-specific stadium, and the place would absolutely rock. In a stadium that is 2/3 empty, the resulting atmosphere is less than the sum of its parts.
Any long time visitor to Gillette Stadium and its predecessor, Foxboro Stadium can tell you what a wasteland the area around the Stadium used to be. Fortunately for visitors to the area, that began to change in 2007 with the development of Patriot Place, an open air shopping center and entertainment venue located on the former site of Foxboro Stadium.
Today Patriot Place consists of dozens of retail stores, over a dozen restaurants, entertainment venues including a bowling alley, theater, and concert venue, a nature trail, cranberry bog, four star hotel, outpatient health care center, and the Patriots Hall of Fame. While not an organic neighborhood, Patriot Place offers something for everyone.
Fans coming to Gillette Stadium for a Revolution game who do not wish to partake in the tailgating scene can choose from eateries ranging from the upscale (Davio's Steakhouse, Twenty 8 Food and Spirits), to national chains (Red Robin, Five Guys Burgers). Choices run the gamut here, from American (CBS Scene, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill), to fine seafood (Skipjacks, Blue Fin Lounge), to sports bars and night clubs (Bar Louie).
If you would like to enjoy some shopping before the soccer game, the stores at Patriot Place do not focus solely on sporting goods as you might expect from a mall located at a football stadium. In addition to the dozens of stores here, the Showcase Cinema de Lux shows first run movies in their theaters, Showcase Live contains a 16,000 square foot concert hall, and Splitsville is a combination bowling alley/restaurant/night club. The days of fighting the traffic on Route 1 right after the end of the game in Foxboro are a distant memory. In fact, many fans will take their time leaving Patriot Place and have a drink or two after the game before heading home after a Revolution game.
The Revolution averaged just under 15,000 fans per game in 2013, ranking them in the bottom third of MLS in attendance. A typical Revolution crowd is filled with families, children, and youth soccer teams, giving the place a feel that is similar to a minor league baseball game in the area. The crowd at a Revolution game is active and energetic, and constantly in motion.
There exist several supporters groups of the New England Revolution, such as The Midnight Riders (Boston based), The Rebellion (Providence based), and La Barra (Latino). These groups generally sit together in the north end zone at Gillette Stadium, otherwise known as "The Fort", chanting, singing songs, and generally trying to make life miserable for the opposing team for the duration of the match. From midfield, you can barely hear their chants and songs during the game. It's unfortunate, as this kind of energy and involvement is what makes soccer matches special among North American sports.
Another negative about the fans who attend games at Gillette Stadium is that a significant percentage of them are not true soccer fans, and do not participate in the fun traditions and atmosphere present during a Revolution match. A large number of fans are in motion throughout the game, constantly getting up from their seats to head to the concession stands, the bathrooms, or to just wander around aimlessly. Many fans spend the entire night on their cell phones, distracting everyone around them with their conversations. As a result, many fans who are truly into the action down on the pitch are forced to miss significant parts of the action getting up for others or trying to look around people standing up at random moments. It can be very frustrating and distracting to true soccer fans.
As anyone who has ever attended a Patriots game or concert at Gillette Stadium will tell you, traffic in and out of the area can be a nightmare. Backups of over an hour are common, and it can regularly take a couple of hours to make it from the parking lots surrounding the stadium to Interstate 95 or 495. Luckily, the traffic situation for a Revolution game is a much less of a hassle.
There are more than 16,500 parking spots in the numerous lots surrounding Gillette Stadium, which is more than enough for the stadium's posted soccer capacity of 20,000. Parking for Revolution games is free, which is another plus. Gillette Stadium is easy to get to by car, located on Route 1, near the intersections of Interstates 95 and 495. Locals will talk about their favorite secret back way into the stadium, but for Revolution games, there is no real need to worry about traffic backups. Delays are minimal, and the staff here are trained to handle full stadium events. Revolution games are a walk in the park compared to these events.
A major drawback to Gillette Stadium's suburban location is the lack of public transportation to the venue. There is an MBTA train stop behind the stadium, but it does not operate during Revolution games. Your only option to get to Foxborough for a Revs game is to drive.
Considering that a significant segment of the Revolution's fan base comes from the urban areas of Boston and Providence, the lack of public transportation is a major source of contention and greatly limits attendance.
Once inside Gillette Stadium, the concourses are more than large enough to handle a typical Revolution crowd. The entire lower concourse is opened for soccer games, allowing fans to circle the entire field. The 12 female, 10 male, and 2 family restrooms on this level are more than adequate to handle the needs of any Revolution crowd, and lines do not form, even at halftime.
Tickets for Revolution games are split into four categories, ranging in price from $46 (midfield, Category 1) to $25 (The Fort, end zone, Category 4). Fans looking for a more upscale experience can look into taking in a game in the Putnam Club (luxury boxes) or the Presidents Club (field level sideline tickets). The team offers discounts for groups, boosters, and season ticket holders. The Revolution's average ticket price of $43.28 for the 2014 season ranks them as the 3rd most affordable ticket in MLS, behind only Chicago and Columbus. Parking for all Revolution games is free, which makes a night with the Revs an affordable alternative for families and groups, especially when compared to the other major league teams in the area.
Another drawback of sharing a venue with an NFL team is that fans at Revolution games have to pay NFL prices for their concessions. The Revolution used to offer some discounted items and meal deals at Revs games, but I saw no evidence of any discounts during my most recent visit to Gillette Stadium.
Supporter groups- The Revolution enjoy the support of three separate organized fan clubs, all of which congregate in the north end zone in an area known as "The Fort." Fans in this part of the stadium stand throughout the game, singing and chanting throughout the match. It creates an atmosphere unique among local sporting events.
Revolution specific traditions- Soccer fans have their own set of traditions and rituals which add to the overall experience at Gillette Stadium. Fans wear scarves to show their allegiance to the Revs, and even the stadium itself is decorated with a large scarf. Fans wave the flag of New England, a red flag with a fir tree in the upper left corner. It has come to be the secondary logo of the Revolution. The End Zone Militia has a presence at every game, and they celebrate each goal by the home team with a 21 gun salute.
Family friendly atmosphere- The Revolution staff make a concerted effort to make a Revolution game a great place to take the entire family, and their efforts show throughout. Youth soccer players are part of the pre-game ceremonies, and you will come across many kids dressed in their soccer uniforms running around the concourse. The players are made available after the game for autographs and pictures in Autograph Alley, and every game features giveaways for all fans in attendance.
There is nothing particularly wrong with the game day experience at a Revolution match at Gillette Stadium, it's just that it doesn't really feel like it's their home. Compare it to how you felt when you were a kid sleeping over at a friend's house. You may have a great time, but you never feel 100% comfortable there, because it's just not your own home.
The Revolution management has been trying for many years now to build a soccer specific stadium in the area to house the Revolution. Rumors appear from time to time of a plan or proposal in downtown Boston or Providence for the stadium, but nothing has progressed past the rumor phase. Until a new soccer specific stadium is built, Gillette Stadium serves as an adequate, although unspectacular, home for the Revs.
By Major League Soccer standards, the New England Revolution have a long history. As one of the original ten teams when league play began in 1996, The Revs, as they are known in New England, have had the time to build a loyal and dedicated fan base. Like most MLS teams, they are challenged by the general lack of interest in soccer by American fans, although that interest has continued to grow over the years. And those Revs fans who do come to cheer on their local team are provided with an excellent facility in which to do so: Gillette Stadium.
Situated midway between Boston and Providence, Foxborough, Massachusetts has been the home of the New England Revolution since the inaugural MLS season of 1996. The Revs are owned by the Kraft Sports Group along with the New England Patriots, and they have shared a stadium in the town with their sister team from the very beginning. Following six mostly undistinguished seasons at the sub-par Foxboro Stadium, the Revs played the very first game at Gillette Stadium on May 11, 2002 and christened the new facility with a 2-0 win over the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas).
Known colloquially as “The Razor”, several elements distinguish Gillette Stadium from the 18 others built primarily for NFL teams during the stadium building boom that started with FedEx Field in 1996. Perhaps most notably, it is one of only two such facilities that was 100% privately financed. (New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium was the other). Both projects received public money for local infrastructure improvements, but only in Gillette’s case was this technically considered part of the overall funding package. Another is the adjacent Patriots Place complex, which transforms what would otherwise be a sea of empty parking spaces outside of 17 MLS and 8 NFL dates (plus playoffs and other special events) into a year-round suburban shopping, dining, and entertainment destination.
It cannot be argued that Gillette is an elite stadium in most ways, one that is perfect for NFL games, concerts, and even soccer matches that warrant a venue with 68,000+ seats. However, it is a less-than-ideal home for an MLS club, a throwback to the early days of the league when virtually every team played in a cavernous, largely-empty NCAA football or NFL stadium. Today, the Revolution are one of only four teams (in a league of 19) that still play in such a large facility. Additionally, Gillette is one out of only four MLS stadiums that has an artificial surface, a much bigger issue in soccer than other sports due to the wear and tear that comes from being in near-constant motion for 90 minutes. Several of the league’s more highly-paid stars, many of whom originally played abroad where such surfaces are banned, have made known their hesitation to play on the FieldTurf due to a fear of injury. This sometimes results in opposing teams of diluted quality, which in turn diminishes the level of play and fan interest along with it.
That said, some credit should be given to the team, stadium management, and fans for trying to make the best out of what they have to work with although more could still be done, especially in terms of stadium branding during Revs matches.
I grew up a fan of the revs and I've always loved coming to the games. It's my only chance to go to Gillette because pats games are way to expensive. Nice stadium and very clean with great food and a lot of extra's. Because it's soccer the stadium doesn't fill up but the atmosphere is still pretty good. With the Revs getting better the fan base is growing and also getting a lot better. Patriots place is also very nice and located right outside the stadium with a lot of cool attractions and restaurants.
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