STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The NFL began its regular season last night. Giants beat the Redskins 16-7, and more teams begin on Sunday, including the New England Patriots.
Patriot fans can say, according to the song, are you ready for some football, but they can also say are you ready for some shopping. That's because team owner Robert Kraft is building a giant mall next to Gillette Stadium, which is costing as much as the stadium itself. From Member-station WBUR, Curt Nickisch reports.
CURT NICKISCH: Other stadiums have some shops and accommodations next door, but nothing like this. Patriot Place will have a football museum, a four-star hotel and spa, a medical clinic, and of course, scores of stores and restaurants. Some have already opened.
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NICKISCH: Brian Earley is supervising the development. He shows off a sports bar owned by CBS with vertigo-inducing video screens. Outside, the restaurant patio has a clear view of the football field's artificial grass glinting under the stadium lights.
Mr. BRIAN EARLY (Development Supervisor): For people who want to come down to Patriot Place, you're getting as close to the action as you possibly can without actually having to have a ticket. There's no other venue like this in professional sports.
NICKISCH: But Patriot Place is not just for any given Sunday. It's for Monday and Tuesday and every day of the year when the Patriots are not battling out on the field.
Mr. ROBERT KRAFT (Team Owner, New England Patriots): We see this as becoming the number-one dining and entertainment destination in all of New England.
NICKISCH: Bob Kraft is the Pat's owner and the business mind behind Patriot Place. Unlike most owners of sports franchises, he footed the bill for Gillette Stadium without public money. That means he's paying back some big loans, but he can do what he wants with all the parking and plumbing he paid for.
Mr. KRAFT: I realized that if we were going to make this work financially, eventually we'd have to do other things around it. I dreamt of being able to have a development down there, and that was always part of my long-range plan.
NICKISCH: Kraft broke ground on the stadium eight years ago in the Boston suburb of Foxboro. His team has won the Super Bowl three times since. But will the integrated shopping center prove as successful?
Mr. DAVE RANDO (Foxboro, Massachusetts): I think it's a huge attraction. It's gonna be a big hit, a big hit.
NICKISCH: Dave Rando and his girlfriend, Jessica Colella, dropped by on a weeknight this week, all dressed up to celebrate his getting promoted at work. Rando is a big Pats fan.
Mr. RANDO: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
NICKISCH: She is not. Still, both are pretty taken with the place.
Mr. RANDO: It appeals to a male because you have the shopping area for the female, you've got the food…
Ms. JESSICA COLELLA (Foxboro, Massachusetts): Drop her off.
Mr. RANDO: Drop her off, and then you've got the stadium right here. So it all kind of adds up, everybody wins.
NICKISCH: But Patriot Place is not a winning formula for another customer. Patrick Tansey and his wife and two kids checked the place out for dinner.
Mr. PATRICK TANSEY (Foxboro, Massachusetts): It was convenient today because we were in Foxboro. You know, I don't that it's going to be any closer than any other malls that are around. I don't know how much shopping I'll do.
Mr. ABRAHAM MADKOUR (Editor, Sports Business Journal): I think it's a tremendous risk with an enormous upside.
NICKISCH: Abraham Madkour is the editor of the Sports Business Journal. He says today's slow retail economy makes Patriot Place all the more ambitious. The flip side, Madkour says, is that Kraft may be able to take his ownership of a pro sports team and stadium to a whole new level of moneymaking.
Mr. MADKOUR: What you see in the last 10 years is more and more teams saying they are, quote, out of runway, and what that means is, there's only so many more tickets they can sell.
NICKISCH: And only so many corporate sponsorships. If Patriot Place really takes off, Madkour says, watch for other team owners to copy from Kraft's playbook. For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston.
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