August 18, 2002
Gillette Stadium Doesn't Disappoint
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
FOXBORO, MA -- So this is what a professional football stadium looks like.
As I sat in section 316, row 8, seat 1 (the first row of the section with the first seat of the aisle) of the new Gillette Stadium, it was hard to believe that the days of the aluminum benches were finally over. The dream that was owner Robert Kraft's had loomed behind the old Foxboro Stadium for too long, and after parking where the old stadium once stood, here I was in what I can only describe as a first rate facility.
My first ever trip to Foxboro Stadium came against the Indianapolis Colts back in 1994. I had never been to a professional football stadium before, and the experience was one that I would never forget. It was strange. Here was this quiet road which basically appeared to have had a football stadium dropped into the middle of it. I saw the flags flying along the top of the stadium, and was blown away at the mere sight of it.
After entering the stadium I hurried to my seat, anxious to have the opportunity to watch what went on prior to the game as it was over an hour before the scheduled kickoff. To my amazement I found myself sitting next to Mac Bledsoe and the man he claimed taught #11 how to throw a spiral. A couple of seats down from there sat Ben Coates' brother.
I was beside myself.
The view was amazing, and though a few people there complained about the metal benches I had no complaints. I was merely 18-years old at the time and just thrilled to be there.
It was then that I got my first glimpse of owner Robert Kraft. I had heard in passing of how he had saved the team from leaving town but knew little about him or about how much he cared about the fans that filled his stadium. Little did I know at the time how much of an impact this man would later have on the team.
New England reached the endzone several times that afternoon en-route to a victory over the Colts, and after each touchdown Kraft tossed Patriots hats, T-shirts, and other memorabilia from his owner's box to the happy crowd below.
I had no idea he was once a season ticked holder and sat on those very same benches, and you could see in his eyes how much he truly cared about all these people who filled what at the time appeared to be an amazing place.
I left that afternoon with a new found passion for the team and for Foxboro Stadium.
But after Saturday night's game against the Eagles, I'm not the least bit sorry it's gone.
Mr. Kraft has outdone himself.
After entering the stadium in the West entrance, we walked down the stairs to the main concourse right at the base of where the lighthouse stands. If you walk under the bridge you will find yourself at field level where you can watch the players work out prior to the game. If you have seats in the lower levels (sections 100-200) you can stand there and watch the players come out of the locker room and take the field.
Why can't you stand there if you sit up in the higher levels?
It's simple. You can if you don't mind missing the kickoff. It's quite a hike to the upper levels of the stadium, and though the ramps are easy to navigate, even if you're in very good shape it takes a little bit of effort to walk all the way to the top. Needless to say, season ticket holders will find themselves in very good shape by the time the season is over. A few seats away on seat 6 was a grasshopper. Considering the walk we all endured to get up there, fans around us couldn't quite figure out how he managed to get all the way up there.
There are so many places to stand to take it all in. I stood on the bridge next to the lighthouse, as well as on the opposite bridge above the south endzone. The view is amazing. Despite how high up you are the field doesn't seem that far away, and if you get hungry the concessions are extremely accessible. I went down on more than one occasion, and the lines moved quickly and the staff was extremely courteous. It was quite a different experience from the days where I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the Foxboro faithful wondering if I'd ever make it back to my seat.
As for the rest of the building, there was virtually nothing to complain about. The atmosphere was much more upbeat than the old building, and the new sound system was light years above and beyond what the previous stadium had delivered. While it wasn't quite as loud as it should have been, it will definitely still be quite an experience the first time they turn it up following a big touchdown by the home team.
He said it was built with the fans in mind, and that's certainly the feeling I had as I got in my vehicle to return home after the game.
As we drove away I looked back at the lights shining off this amazing building. Foxboro Stadium is now a distant memory, and despite how much I enjoyed my first time in his old building, I'm not sorry it's gone.
Thanks again Mr. Kraft. My first time in your new building went the same as it did the first time I entered the old one.
I had a great time.
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