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FLASHBACK: CT Tried, Failed to Get Patriots to Move to Hartford

February 3, 2017 By Staff
FLASHBACK: CT Tried, Failed to Get Patriots to Move to Hartford

Ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, Reclaim Connecticut looks back on Connecticut's failed effort to get the Patriots to move from Boston to Hartford.

The year was 1998. Connecticut was jubilant over a Patriots commitment to move to Hartford. From Mike Allen, then at The New York Times:

A team owner spurned at home and an eager Governor next door shook hands today, promising the New England Patriots a new home in downtown Hartford and infusing Connecticut’s blighted capital with big-league cachet. Gov. John G. Rowland agreed to build a $350 million football stadium for the Patriots’ owner, Robert K. Kraft, who said he felt the Massachusetts Legislature had been too stingy with him.

Fast forward to May 1999…the deal fell through. More from Allen:

Five months after the New England Patriots announced a startling plan to move to Connecticut, the football team said today it was walking away from the most lucrative stadium deal in professional sports now that Massachusetts is willing to pay to keep the team.

…the withdrawal came just three days after Massachusetts legislators, after years of bitter and unproductive negotiations with the team’s owner, Robert K. Kraft, promised a subsidy of $70 million to help him build a new stadium next to his current one at Foxboro, south of Boston.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft reflected on the deal in 2005, telling the Hartford Courant that he was “not sure” the deal added “value” to both Connecticut and the Patriots. “I hope people in Connecticut feel I made a responsible decision that was in the best long-term interest of both parties,” Kraft said.

Although some no doubt feel spurned by the Pats, even to this day (paging Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine)), some old polling we dug up from Quinnipiac reveals that Connecticut residents were never too hot on the deal:

In the first four days of polling last week, before the Patriots announced that they were backing out of the Hartford plan, voters already had turned against the plan, with 58 percent somewhat or strongly opposed and 38 somewhat or strongly in favor of it, according to a poll by the independent Quinnipiac College.

…Looking at the stadium plan: 18 percent favored it strongly; 20 percent favored it somewhat; 18 percent opposed it somewhat; 40 percent opposed it strongly.

Perhaps it’s because – despite the failed stadium deal – Connecticut is still Patriots country. Six of Connecticut’s eight countries root, primarily, for the Pats, like the rest of New England. Fairfield and New Haven counties, in southwest Connecticut, root for the Giants.