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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Gillette Stadium – New England Patriots



Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Gillette Stadium 1 Patriot Place Foxborough, MA 02035


Year Opened: 2002

Capacity: 65,878


 

The Patriots’ Place


The New England Patriots have been the standard-bearer for the National Football League for the greater part of the 21st century. They have won six Super Bowls since 2001 and have played in nine during that span. Recent years have seen the team return to the middle of the standings, missing the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. Still, this is a far cry from the franchise’s early years when they were one of the league’s most dysfunctional teams, consistently landing at the bottom of the standings and making headlines for all of the wrong reasons.


In addition, 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, AL, and San Diego, CA. When the team built a permanent home, it was the substandard Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium. Rumors of relocation hounded the team for years until Robert Kraft, a longtime fan and season ticket holder, bought the team and stadium in the 90s.


In 2002 Gillette Stadium, a $325 million privately funded stadium opened right next door to its predecessor. 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.


Food & Beverage 4


With an active tailgating scene and dozens of dining choices located just steps from Gillette Stadium’s front door, you may not expect much from the facility’s concessions. While Gillette Stadium may come up short on signature food items and high-end options, you will be satisfied with the choices available here should you choose to eat inside the stadium during the game.


Stands are located around the outer edge of the Gillette Stadium concourse, organized by the types of foods they offer. You may have to do a little searching to find what you want. All the stadium basics are covered, with stands that sell pizza, burgers, dogs and sausages, chicken tenders, and BBQ ringing the field. Portable carts selling drinks and snack foods line the inner edge of the concourses.


Pepsi products are featured at Gillette Stadium. As you may expect, the beer game is strong here, with national brands lining the menu boards alongside dozens of local craft favorites. For the most extensive selection of local beers, check out the Taproom or Draft Kings Lounge.

A complete guide to Gillette Stadium’s concessions can be found here.



Atmosphere 5


The experience at Gillette is dominated by the new 22,000-square-foot scoreboard and lighthouse on the northern end of the stadium. It can be hard to keep your focus on the game with such a large, clear view of the game available. The scoreboard contains 20 million pixels and measures over half an acre.


All the best parts of the Patriots game day experience remain, including the End Zone Militia firing their muskets after every New England score, the elaborate pregame show punctuated with the team taking the field to Carmina Burana, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and AC-DC’s “For Those About to Rock.” You might be ready to run through a wall yourself after this opening.


Several social gathering areas have been built into Gillette Stadium over the years, including the Optum Field Lounge, the Bud Light Party Deck, and Encore Boston Harbor Terrace. Patriot games have become an event as much as a simple football game, as cars line up along Route One waiting for the lots to open up four hours before game time. The Foxboro tailgating scene is as good as any in the league, although it doesn’t get the attention other cities enjoy. If tailgating isn’t your thing, you can always check out Patriot Place before or after kickoff.


Neighborhood 4


Gillette Stadium sits on what once was a lonely stretch of Route One which contained only a harness racing track and a trailer park. That began to change in 2007 when the Kraft Group began construction of Patriot Place, an open-air shopping center located mostly on the site of the old Schaefer Stadium. Initially consisting of a single strip mall, it has grown to now include a four-star hotel, entertainment complex, and outpatient health center.


Fans visiting Foxboro can choose between numerous eateries ranging from casual dining to fine fare. Options vary from brew pubs to fancy steakhouses. Fans looking for entertainment options before or after a Patriots game can visit Splitsville Bowling Alley or Cinema de Lux, or take in some live music at Showcase Live! Fans looking to stay on-site will find a Hilton Garden Inn and Renaissance Hotel steps from the stadium. Visit the Patriot Place website for more information.



Fans 5


Say what you want about Patriots fans; that they’re bandwagon jumpers, that they are spoiled, that the high rollers spend their time inside the climate-controlled Putnam Club rather than in their expensive luxury seats, but this is a fact; the Patriots have sold out every game since Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994. This includes every game ever played at Gillette Stadium, including playoffs, regular season, and preseason.


Now that the north end of Gillette Stadium is enclosed by the new scoreboard, it will be interesting to see how the winds, noise, and home-field advantage will be affected going forward. But rest assured, the days of the Patriots being the fifth team in this four-team sports city are long gone.


Access 2


Gillette Stadium is located in the small town of Foxborough, MA (alternatively spelled Foxboro). Foxboro has a population of almost 19,000 residents and is situated about halfway between Boston and Providence, RI at the intersection of Interstates 95 and 495. This location was picked for the original Schaefer Stadium due to its apparent convenience, but access has always been an issue at Patriots games.


Gillette Stadium is located on Route One, a busy four-lane road. It is the only way into and out of the stadium complex. As you might imagine, traffic is extremely heavy on game days and can back up for miles in both directions. The Patriots constantly tweak their systems to try and get visitors moving as quickly as possible, but no plan seems to consistently work.


The Foxboro MBTA station has a stop behind Gillette Stadium, but it provides only one train in either direction, to Boston or Providence.


Fans who have not visited Gillette in a while will notice changes in the parking system. The lots closest to the stadium are now reserved for prepaid parking only. Fans arriving on game day will park on the opposite side of Route One, a bit of a walk from the facility. The perk to parking further away is that these lots are now free of charge. A complete guide to Gillette Stadium parking can be found here.


Once arriving at the stadium, fans will enter through one of three gates. Concourses, while busy, are large enough to move about without issue. The renovations to the north end of the stadium have improved flow greatly. Three sets of ramps lead to the upper levels of the stadium. There is standing room available at certain points on all levels of the facility. Handicapped seating is plentiful.


The concourse is filled with concession stands, both permanent and portable. Lines can be long, particularly at halftime. Restrooms are plentiful and clean considering their busy usage. Just time your visits wisely. Be aware that Gillette Stadium is a cashless facility with a fairly aggressive clear bag policy. What can and cannot be brought into the stadium is advertised in all parking lots. Pay attention and save yourself a long walk back to your car.


Any veteran fan of the Patriots will tell you that the key to avoiding the legendary Gillette traffic is to arrive early and plan to stay a bit after the game. Luckily, with Patriot Place next to the stadium and the excellent tailgating scene, this is not the worst plan.



Return on Investment 3


For the 2022 season, the Patriots ranked behind only the Raiders in terms of cost according to the Team Marketing Report Fan Cost Index. Driving the high prices are tickets, concessions, and parking which all land near the top of the NFL. However, for the 2023 season, the team has enacted some changes that will please fans looking to save a few dollars.


In particular, parking at Gillette Stadium has undergone some drastic changes. Parking in the lots on the stadium side of Route One is now reserved for Prepaid spots only. A spot in these lots will cost you $50. Parking on the far side of Route One is now free (unbelievable, right?). There are also “delayed release” lots, from which you cannot leave for 75 minutes after the game. If you choose to park here, the Patriots will reward you with a $50 Visa gift card. Privately owned lots along Route One charge anywhere from $20-$40 to park.


Extras 5


Located at the north end of the stadium above the team store, the Patriots Hall of Fame houses team memorabilia from throughout their history. Among the notable pieces here are the team’s six Super Bowl trophies and the snowplow from the infamous “plow game” in 1982.


The End Zone Militia has a vantage point many Patriot fans dream of. From their post just beyond the north end zone, they fire off a 21-gun salute after every New England score.


Gone is the old, narrow bridge on the north end of the stadium along with the stylized lighthouse. In its place is the largest outdoor scoreboard in North America, a new lighthouse that looks like a lighthouse (visiting fans will have access during off-hours, complete with views of the Boston and Providence skylines), along with new function areas and a redesign of the north entry plaza.


The display of the Patriots’ six Super Bowl banners in the south end zone continues to be a focal point of the stadium. The surrounding live/work/play complex around Gillette Stadium has become a model for newer facilities around the world. It’s become a standard feature for any new sporting facility design.


Final Thoughts


It's been a difficult transition in New England as the Patriots return to mediocracy after two decades of ruling the NFL. However, the (relative) lack of success on the field has not diminished Gillette Stadium’s influence on modern facility design or fan interest in the team. Outfitted with the largest outdoor scoreboard in the country and a modern new design, Gillette Stadium remains a premier, if somewhat overshadowed, NFL facility.


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Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.



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