Practically Perfect Patriots Place
Fans who are new to the NFL may be surprised to learn that the New England Patriots were not always the consistent winners and championship contenders that they have been for the past two decades. In fact, for the greater part of their history, the opposite was true. They were one of the league’s most dysfunctional teams, consistently ranking among the worst teams in the standings. Even worse, they were nomads, roaming around Boston and beyond looking for a home. Nickerson Field, Harvard Stadium, Fenway Park, and Alumni Stadium all served as home fields during the team’s formative years. The Patriots even played home games in Birmingham, Alabama and San Diego, California. Even when the team built themselves a permanent home in the Boston suburb of Foxboro, it was the substandard Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium. Rumors of relocation hounded the team for years.
In 2002, Gillette Stadium, a $325 million privately funded venue opened right next door to its predecessor in suburban Foxboro, a small town roughly halfway between Boston and Providence. The Patriots immediately began to make the area not only a football venue, but an entertainment, dining, and shopping destination. In 2006, construction began on Patriot Place, an open air shopping center located adjacent to the stadium. Patriot Place has proven to be so successful that imitators have begun to sprout up at stadiums around the country, and have become almost a standard feature in new stadium designs.
What is FANFARE?
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
- Food & Beverage
- Return on Investment
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food & Beverage
In 2012, Gillette Stadium revamped their concessions, ditching the old concept of stands with local-sounding names. Concession stands were given new monikers which more clearly explained what each stand offered. The menu was expanded, giving fans some healthier options. One thing that has not changed is Gillette Stadium's commitment to food safety. The food service department at Gillette has a long record of exemplary food safety, and is ranked first of all venues in the NFL with no critical violations over several years.
Fans who are still looking for something to eat after a long day of tailgating will find a wide selection among Gillette Stadium's 46 permanent concession stands and 60 portable stands. There are over 500 points of sale throughout the stadium. Remember, you will be paying NFL prices to eat at Gillette Stadium, but the variety and quality of the food here is very good.
Hungry Patriots fans have some difficult decisions to make with the number of stands at Gillette Stadium. All the standard menu items are here, such as hot dogs, burgers, sausage sandwiches, chicken tenders, French fries, wings, and pizzas. Fans looking for something a little more exotic will find pulled pork sandwiches, beef brisket, BBQ ribs, cheesesteaks, strombolis, and bratwursts. Fans seeking healthier alternatives can head to the Market Fresh Deli, where they can choose between freshly prepared wraps, salads, deli sandwiches, fresh fruit, and vegetables with hummus.
Numerous snack options are also present at Gillette Stadium, such as pretzels, cotton candy, nachos, peanuts, assorted candy, and fried dough. Popcorn is available in several sizes, including giant souvenir buckets.
Various brands of beer can be purchased at Gillette Stadium, with prices varying slightly depending on the brand purchased. Beers typically sell for $9 for a 16 ounce cup and $11 or $12 for a 22 ounce cup. Local brands such as Sam Adams, along with national beers such as Budweiser, and many craft brews are sold throughout the stadium. Be advised that each stand features a different brand of beer, so do a little shopping around to find your favorite. Some portable stands sell wine and margaritas for fans looking for something a little more exotic.
Fans looking for non-alcoholic beverages will find Pepsi products featured at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots offer one of the better looking souvenir glasses that you will find anywhere. When the weather turns colder, two of the better selling items in the stadium are souvenir mugs filled with hot chocolate and, this being New England, Dunkin' Donuts coffee.
If you haven't been to New England for a football game before, you wouldn't think of it as a tailgating hot spot, but the fans at Gillette Stadium can hang with the best of them when it comes to partying before the game. Gillette Stadium's suburban location actually works in its favor when it comes to the tailgating scene. There is lots of room around the stadium for, well, lots. Cars will line up along Route 1 even before the parking lots are opened four hours before kickoff in order to reserve their favorite spots.
Several traditions have developed for the Patriots at Gillette Stadium over the years, most notably the presence of the End Zone Militia, a group of local fans dressed in colonial garb who fire muskets after every Patriots score. Another is the intricate pregame show, which includes the entire team taking the field to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," and the playing of AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock" before the opening kickoff. It never fails to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Of course, there is the obligatory "that's another Patriots.....FIRST DOWN" chants and foghorns that blare on every defensive third down.
If tailgating isn't your thing, the presence of the shops and restaurants at Patriot Place ensure that there will be something to do before or after a game in Foxboro for just about everyone.
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 a multitude 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.
Fans coming to Gillette Stadium for a Patriots 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 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 having to fight 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 Patriots game and let some of the congestion dissipate.
While Gillette Stadium's "neighborhood" may not be an organic one, everything you need or want can be found there. You can't ask for much more than that.
Critics of the game day experience say that the fans of the Patriots have become spoiled, that Gillette Stadium is too quiet, that the fans here sit on their hands for large parts of the game, and that the corporate types in the fancy red club seats spent too much time inside the Putnam Club and not enough time outside watching the game. These criticisms all have some merit to them, but consider these facts: The Patriots have sold out EVERY GAME ever played at Gillette Stadium. In fact, the sellout streak dates all the way back to 1994. For those keeping track, that was long before Tom Brady ever stepped on the field, before Bill Belichick ever patrolled the sidelines, back all the way to the days of Drew Bledsoe and Bill Parcells. The Patriots have enjoyed sell-out crowds for over 20 seasons, and have over 50,000 people on their season ticket holder waiting list.
Say what you want about the fans in New England, but the facts are that they support their team in numbers that most teams can only wish for. The days when the Patriots were rumored to be heading to St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa, Memphis, Jacksonville, Birmingham, Hartford, or Providence are long gone.
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 or more to make it from the parking lots surrounding the stadium to Interstate 95 (three miles north of the stadium) or 495 (four miles south). Working out solutions to the traffic nightmares surrounding Gillette Stadium is a work in progress, but stadium personnel and the local police force seem to have found some solutions that seem to work better than in years past.
There are more than 16,500 parking spots in the numerous team-owned lots surrounding Gillette Stadium. The 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 no one has ever truly found an answer for the traffic surrounding Patriots games. For best results, do what many regulars do here in Foxboro, and get to the stadium early. Also, be sure to save a little tailgating for after the game. While you unwind from (hopefully) another Patriots win, the greater part of the congestion will work itself out. With the presence of Patriot Place next door to the stadium, many fans spend some time in the many bars and restaurants there waiting for the best time to depart.
A major drawback to Gillette Stadium's suburban location is the relative lack of any public transportation to the venue. There is an MBTA train stop behind the stadium, which brings fans on game days from both T.F. Green Airport in Providence and South Station in Boston. Tickets for the Patriots' Train cost riders $15 round trip. Each train makes only one run on game day, so check the MBTA website for details. And don't miss the train after the game. It's a long walk back to Boston.
Once fans arrive at the stadium, they will enjoy plenty of room to tailgate, wide and well-marked pedestrian walkways to both the stadium and Patriot Place, and nicely manicured grounds. For fans who can recall the old dirt parking lots of the old Foxboro Stadium, this is a different world, indeed.
Fans will enter Gillette Stadium through one of three entry plazas. The two entry plazas on the west side of the stadium deposit fans on the main concourse above the 100 level of seats. The third entrance is located by the Patriots team store and Hall of Fame, and fans entering here will find themselves at the base of the bridge and lighthouse. Ramps lead up from here to the 100 level concourse. The upper concourses are accessible by three sets of ramps located around the stadium.
100 level concourses completely encircle the field and are wide enough to handle traffic for the typical Patriots crowd. Getting around can be particularly tough at halftime, but fans will find manageable lines to the restrooms and concession stands at most points during the game. The bridge and lighthouse have proven to be popular spots for fans to stop and pose for pictures during their visits to Gillette, but don't stop for long while on the bridge, as ushers keep traffic moving across the bridge.
Seats on the steeply pitched 300 level seem far from the action, but every seat is angled towards midfield, thus offering excellent views of the game. Fans without seats will find ample standing room on the concourses, walkways, and ramps of Gillette Stadium.
Return on Investment
The Patriots introduced dynamic pricing beginning in 2014. Games are divided into "Premier" and "Marquee" games. There are seven price levels, ranging from $75-$220 for Premier games, and from $99-$295 for Marquee matches. Gillette Stadium's average ticket price of $122 is the highest in the NFL. The average premium ticket price of $566.67 is the highest in the league by almost $100. Patriots tickets sell quickly, so the secondary market may be your best bet when purchasing tickets for games at Gillette Stadium.
Parking isn't cheap at Gillette Stadium, either. The lots closest to the stadium, which are owned by the team, cost $40 to park your car. Further from Gillette Stadium up and down Route 1 are lots owned by private companies that will charge anywhere from $30-$50 for the privilege of storing your car there for a few hours. Why do lots farther from Gillette cost more than the ones right next to the stadium? In a word, access. These lots are easier to get into and out of, and charge a premium for this luxury. Of course, once on Route 1, everyone is in the same mix.
Luckily, concession prices are more in line with NFL averages, and many items can actually be found cheaper at Gillette Stadium than at other venues. Still, the Patriots' Fan Cost Index of $624.70 ranks them as the third most expensive venue in the NFL. The old saying goes "you get what you pay for" and luckily, at Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place you can get quite a lot.
The Hall at Patriot Place- Located just past the north end zone above the Patriots Team Store, and the Patriots Hall of Fame houses Patriots memorabilia from their over 50 years of history. Not your typical museum, The Hall uses technology to present and display Patriots history in an interactive fashion.
End Zone Militia- These Revolutionary War recreationists have the vantage point every New England fan dreams of. From their post just beyond the end zone, they have become as much a part of the Gillette Stadium experience as the team on the field. Be prepared for their 21 gun salute after every Patriots score.
Stadium design- Gillette Stadium's capacity is listed at 68,756, and it could be a lot larger. The stadium was intentionally built with a lot of open space to take advantage of the elements and to give it a more "New England" feel. The lighthouse and bridge have become the signature features of the stadium, and are incorporated in Gillette Stadium's logo. The whole design makes for a visually appealing venue.
History/banners- Several banners hang throughout Gillette Stadium honoring the team's three Super Bowl Championship seasons as well as the undefeated 2007 regular season. The Patriots' old logo, an illustration of an angry looking minuteman ready to snap a football between his legs, can be seen throughout the stadium. In fact, there seems to be as many red throwback uniforms in the stands as the current blue model.
Pregame experience- From the fans who line up along Route 1 as the sun rises to AC/DC blasting over the loudspeakers just before kickoff, there is much more going on in Foxboro than just a three-hour football game. Take a walk around the parking lots pregame to see some innovative and creative tailgating equipment, or browse the shops at Patriot Place. Oh yeah, there is some pretty good football to watch here as well.
The Patriots have been one of the most successful teams in the NFL since the opening of Gillette Stadium, posting an incredible .848 winning percentage at home in this time. The Patriots have won multiple Super Bowl, Conference, and Division championships while playing at Gillette Stadium. They truly have become a model franchise and the standard for other franchises to aspire to. In Gillette Stadium, the Patriots have a home that matches these lofty standards.