A groundbreaking development at the former Wonderland Dog Track property is apparently knocking on the City’s door and it could include a 15,000-seat soccer stadium with accompanying parking.
Sources told the Journal this week that talks regarding the building of a new soccer stadium at Wonderland have escalated quickly as of late, and the entire plan is now apparently running hand-in-hand with the casino proposal at Suffolk Downs.
“They have been in talks for awhile, but things are really moving quickly now and the talks are supposedly in the final stages – even though the actual plan is probably far off,” said the well-placed source. But he would not reveal who the city or the track is in talks with regarding the stadium development.
Talk about a stadium at Wonderland has been at low levels for more than a year. Earlier this year, Mayor Dan Rizzo confirmed that there was some interest from the City and the New England Revolution Major League Soccer team about such a plan. Then, just last month, Economic Development Director John Festa indicated that the City had engaged in talks with the Kraft family (who own the team, along with being the owners of the New England Patriots).
However, that was quite some time ago.
Mayor Rizzo, when asked this week, said neither he nor Festa would comment on the details of the negotiations involving development at Wonderland.
Nothing could be confirmed this week on the record by any City officials or anyone involved in the discussions.
City Councillors said that they were not aware of the escalated discussions, and that they were curious about the plan, but skeptical about the traffic implications.
Councillor Tony Zambuto, chair of the Council’s Economic Development Committee, said he would be open to the idea, but has concerns about traffic.
“At first blush, I’m excited about something like that,” said Zambuto, “but there’s also a lot about it that makes me nervous. I’d like to see how they plan to mitigate the traffic there. If you can do something to mitigate the traffic, that would be a very good thing. Traffic is the big stumbling block I would say.”
Councillor-at-large Bob Haas said he would like to consider such a plan carefully, as Wonderland has a great deal of potential.
“The word is out there about this, but you have to ask what venture they’re after,” said Haas. “The bottom line is we want the biggest bang for our buck there. We have to really analyze what’s best for that property. I have always thought that bringing an outlet mall with name brands would be a good fit there. Look at Maine and how many people drive up there for outlets. This would be the only place in Greater Boston with that kind of thing.”
Meanwhile, Ward 5 Councillor John Powers said he was probably not going to be going along with any soccer stadium in his ward.
“I don’t have any problem with the game of soccer,” he said. “My concern is that the traffic coming there all at once will be a big burden on the residents, particularly if a casino also comes in. You can only put so many cars on the highway. I think I’d be more in favor of something like the Wonderland Marketplace with retail and offices where people don’t come and go all at once.”
No one could confirm when any of the information about a soccer stadium at Wonderland might become public information, but some have postulated that when the City’s mitigation package come out in the next month or so, the plan might be more openly discussed.