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Gillette Stadium (map it)
One Patriot Place
Foxborough, MA 02035
Year Opened: 2002
Without question, the New England Patriots have been the class of the NFL since Bill Belichick became their head coach back in 2000. Their three Lombardi Trophies, four Super Bowl appearances, fourteen playoff wins, and a .700 win percentage set them apart as the top franchise of the Noughties - a decade in which they endured only one losing season.
You'd figure that the home for a team like that would be, in the words of Massachusetts' own John Winthrop, a "shining city upon a hill."
Prior to this season, though, you'd have been wrong or, rather, not yet right.
Gillette Stadium is, in itself, a good setting for a football game. Its three broad, flattish tiers rise almost imperceptibly from the field to a formidable stacked height, crowned by full rows of floodlights. The sometimes-harsh elements of New England's winter season are given ample open space, through the end zones and from above, to come in and play. In the subtle polish of dark red and blue, with guts of grey concrete, the venue embodies the stolid professionalism of the organization it houses. There isn't a bad seat in the house, but you're not living in luxury, either.
Until the tail end of the Patriots' 2007 season, that was the sum total of the game day experience. Outside, construction skeletons, dirt-strewn pedestrian walkways, and parking lots littered the flatland patch of Foxborough along Route 1 where Gillette had been plopped down in 2002, just up the road from an unremarkable suburban neighborhood.
Over the past two years, though, completed pieces have filled big spaces in team owner Robert Kraft's ambitious framework. From a 142,000 square-foot Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store in 2007, to The Hall - New England's own football hall of fame - in 2008 and several prominent restaurants in 2009, the stadium that once stood alone has become the nucleus of what Kraft calls "a super-regional lifestyle and entertainment center," complete with its own four-star hotel and 14-screen movie theater.
Make no mistake: Patriot Place is that "city upon a hill," and it makes Gillette Stadium as elite among sporting venues as its Patriots have been among football teams.
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".
The in-stadium concessions, unfortunately, are anything but elite. Sam Adams on tap is an admirable alternative to the standard domestic fare, and $4 small beers aren't a bad value as ball-game brews go. But Gillette's too-typical selection of $5 dogs and $7 sausages is uninspiring, and paying $9 for a combo at one of the two McDonald's locations sucks the "value" right out of your value meal.
With that said, there's no earthly reason to get your grub on inside the gates.
Along the thoroughfares of Patriot Place, several city blocks' worth of dining options have been slotted between shops. Ranging from $8 burritos at Qdoba to $50 ribeye steaks at Davio's, with chains such as Red Robin and Olive Garden and several other restaurants priced between, there's something for every palette and budget.
And then there's Five Guys.
The burgers and fries served up by this Alexandria, Va.-based chain deserve paragraphs upon paragraphs of praise. Suffice to say, though, that there's nary a freezer on the premises - meaning fresh 80% lean beef, vegetables, and bread - and the spuds that end up as your fries are cut and cold-soaked the morning of your visit. A burger, fries, and a drink costs around $10, and you'll bless every penny of it.
Maybe it's the ever-present (and sometimes oppressive) touch of the New England cold, the parking lot talk of "layering up" and keeping your feet warm, and the resultant sea of heavy jackets, coveralls, and snow caps.
Maybe it's the sheer overflow of that crowd, which fills all of the stadium's 68,756 seats and spills over heavily into areas for "standing room only" ticket-holders, or the feeling of taking part in the mass movement of that many people to and from their seats, or the sound of them all screaming for a big play or shouting to finish the announcer's sentence: "First down!"
Maybe it's just that the Patriots, who are 60-12 all-time (and 7-0 in the playoffs) at Gillette, usually give their home crowd plenty to cheer about.
Whatever the reasons, the place feels like big-time professional football. From the tailgate-swamped lots to the bustling shops to the concourses and stands, it exudes "place-to-be" appeal.
The modern fan can follow his fantasy team and the rest of the NFL at CBS Scene, a restaurant and bar just outside the gates. Next door, The Hall at Patriot Place ($10 admission) celebrates New England football through exhibits ranging from local prep school history to the actual snow plow used in the infamous 1982 "Snow Plow Game," in addition to the frequent presence of legendary former players.
Gillette Stadium has two neighborhoods, really. One (Patriot Place) surrounds the place, self-sufficient in its abundance of attractions. CBS Scene doubles as a nightclub, and shops for global brands such as Reebok and Hollister stand next to the theater and plethora of restaurants mentioned above, in addition to the row of sizeable chain stores located across the parking lots to the east.
In their midst, a bank branch and a four-story health care center suggest that the Patriots' block of town aspires to be a hub for more than just out-of-town football fans and shoppers. Perhaps equally as fascinating, though, are the otherwise run-of-the-mill neighborhoods a stone's throw down Route 1 in the shadow of these developments.
A far cry from venues like Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium and Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, which sit squarely in the heart of those cities' downtown areas, Gillette's parking lots rub elbows with side streets lined by houses that could be found in any American small town. Less than a mile east of Patriot Place along the highway, on the corner of North Street, a video rental store and pizzeria sit across from a gas station and a McDonald's.
Commuter rail connects Foxboro to big-city Boston on game days, but the two feel worlds apart in spirit.
The rowdies who filled Foxboro Stadium (the Patriots' previous home) would have been much more intolerant of the visiting team's colors, most fans in attendance insisted. Patriots fans of old, they said, would raucously liquor themselves up in the parking lots before rampaging inside the gates.
A real rough bunch, by all accounts, and yet, no sign of them this year.
Plenty of good-natured ribbing, loud cheering, and team spirit. Amongst the tens of thousands, plenty of characters stood out. One fan dressed up as a wolf-man, one as a silver-faced Patriots superhero from his own imagination, and even one as Randy Moss.
Most importantly, they came in droves. In a season where some NFL teams' attendance figures have taken a hit from tough economic times, New England fans shrugged off a wet, windy morning to fill their stadium to its brim and make the kind of noise a professional football team deserves from the home crowd.
In one way, of course, tens of thousands of fans and a charming small-town backdrop don't mix well - a realization that crushes all but the earliest to leave Gillette on game day. Remember the sea of tailgaters in the vast, crowded parking lots? The two-lane highway (Route 1) through the charming small town?
That's the only way out. For everybody.
Some people park in the $40 spots around Patriot Place, while some choose the $20 lots down the highway. (No one uses the town's stores, whose game-day towing policies are ferocious.) Some head for the exits in the fourth quarter, while others wait out the storm for hours after the game at their tailgates. All of them must confront the bumper-to-bumper gridlock that builds in both directions away from Gillette.
Expect to spend extra hours getting through the first miles back toward wherever you came from.
As much as Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place pack an ultra-modern excitement punch, rivaled only by the rich history and intrinsic value of venues such as Lambeau Field and Camden Yards, spending a Sunday there might hit your wallet even harder.
The Fan Cost Index (FCI) developed by Team Marketing measures NFL teams' affordability by calculating the average price for a family of four to buy four tickets, soft drinks, and hot dogs, two small beers, programs, hats, and parking. On average, that experience costs about $415; this year, New England's FCI was close to $600.
Only 10 teams were above the league average FCI, and only Dallas' astronomical $758 outstripped the Patriots.
For that price, Gillette Stadium, the on-field product, and all of Patriot Place's bells and whistles should be every bit as good as they are. In case you'd forgotten, in visiting some less-than-stellar stadiums, that a trip to an NFL game can be a big-time experience, the price tag here should be an easy reminder.
One point for the distinctive lighthouse and bridge marking the stadium's entrance, a replica of the Longfellow Bridge that connects Boston and Cambridge. The team enters, to thunderous applause, from under it, and the organization has used it with great success to increase the venue's brand equity.
Another for the Moss-costumed fan and Randy Moss himself, whose impromptu touchdown celebration competition via Jumbotron drew big cheers from a happy crowd and took the edge off of recent tension between Moss and some local fans and media.
Lastly, one point for the tailgating party four cars over. The beer you donated didn't take the sting out of the Jaguars' 35-7 loss (I'm a Jaguars fan) like you'd hoped, but getting to experience your Patriots' place certainly helped.
why is their a bridge this place disgusts me
Gillette Stadium is among the finest of NFL venues. While it wouldn't have been incredibly difficult to out-do the team's previous home, Foxboro Stadium (to call it a dump would have been kind), Robert Kraft has gone above and beyond. The addition of Patriot Place has made Gillette more than a football destination. But even if you're talking strictly about the football experience, and you could care less about shopping and movie theaters, Gillette should be on your short list.
Parking lots are aplenty along Route 1 leading up to the stadium. You can pay up to $50 to park in the most desirable lots, but the tailgates will be solid no matter which one you end up in. Tailgaters are by and large a friendly bunch - the veterans will likely even let you watch their generator-powered TVs over their shoulder. If you're headed to a 4 or 8pm game, make friends with one of them and take in the early games.
Inside the stadium, even the nosebleeds have a good view to the field. Beers and food are not cheap by any means, but hopefully you've gotten your fill at the tailgate - or, you can grab food at any number of places in Patriot Place (Five Guys. Just go.)
Top it all off with the fact that the on-field product is about as good as it gets, and the Pats are always strong at home. Whether you're a New England fan or hater, this is one venue worth seeing.
I wish I could give the fans and the atmosphere a 6! This stadium is just simply awesome, and you will not regret going to the big game. Here is a guide that will be helpful to the newbs! ... http://renaissancepatriotplace.com/foxborough-area-guide/visit-gillette-stadium/index.cfm
Attended the home opener in 2013 and was not as impressed as I expected to be. Certainly Patriot Place and the Hall of Fame are excellent and you can spend an entire day there for a night game. But the atmosphere wasn't that great and there were empty seats despite the opponent being the Jets. Of course, the game was a stinker and it rained heavily throughout the second half, which sent many fans looking for a dry area. The stadium is very nice and clean but the upper level seats seemed farther away than other stadiums. Finally, getting out can take a very long time.
One Patriot Place
Foxboro, MA 02035
31 Hampshire St
Mansfield, MA 02048