Thursday, December 29, 2011

Could the Boston Celtics Build a New Arena?

By Zach Baru

When Celtics ownership stopped by WEEI last week for an interview with Dale Arnold, an interesting moment occurred.  Arnold asked a question tweeted by a listener, “Are the Celtics interested in building their own arena?”  Even more interesting than the question, the response did not include a “yes” or a “no”.

So would the Celtics actually be interested in building their own arena?  Jeremy Jacobs and his Delaware North Companies own the Celtics’ home arena, TD Garden, as well as the Boston Bruins.  TD Garden is a tremendous asset for Jacobs, and one the Celtics do not benefit from.  Although the WEEI interview portrayed a very happy and healthy relationship between Jacobs and the Celtics, the benefits of owning their own arena are far too great not to speculate.

The chance of the Celtics actually pulling something like this off is slim, and we will probably see a new Fenway Park before a new Celtics arena.  But the idea of a franchise controlling all revenues from a major arena in a top 10 U.S. media market is one that shouldn’t be dismissed quickly. 

Celtics owners Steve Pagliuca and Wyc Grousbeck had nothing but praise for Jacobs and Delaware North when asked about their relationship, and the fact that they did not directly answer the question regarding arena plans is certainly not an indication that they have any such plans.  It seemed they were taken off guard with the question, and it was answered in a very predictable and careful manner.

Other than the benefit of being able to control various streams of basketball-related revenue, a newly built Celtics arena would create the opportunity to provide competition for major concerts in Boston.  TD Garden attracts many top artists each year, but does not provide good acoustics for concerts.  A new arena would create a new option for promoters looking for a large arena in Boston.

Given this economy, and limited options for an accessible location, a new arena in Boston is a far-fetched idea.  But certainly not one to completely disregard.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Patriot Place Would Benefit From Full-Time Commuter Rail

By Zach Baru

One of the best features of Gillette Stadium is not only Patriot Place, but rather the alternative method of travel available to and from Patriots games.  It is not required that fans must spend an hour-plus wait in traffic before and after football games.  Fans have the opportunity to take commuter rail to and from Boston and Providence, and stops in between. 

This is an excellent benefit for both fans and the franchise, which has been burdened with attempting to ease the traffic congestion around the 68,756 seat stadium.  The partnership with commuter rail owner Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and its operator Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, has proven to be popular.  For the beginning of the 2011 Patriots season, MBTA added additional rail cars to its “Football Train” service. 

This service to Foxboro for Patriots games provides an excellent glimpse of the benefit commuter rail could have for the Patriots if full-time service were added.  Studies have already been conducted, and there have been opinions for and against the proposed new route.  Everything from funding, to profitability, to environmental impact has been studied and debated. 

There has been a trend in recent years among sports and entertainment venues and incorporating public transportation.  Gone are the days when stadiums are built with the expectation that 100% of the fans will be arriving by car.   The combination of better transportation options, traffic congestion, and high gas prices has provoked a surge in the use of public transportation to sporting events and concerts.  Many of the new arenas and stadiums being built include plans for high volume use of public transportation.

Connecting Patriot Place and Gillette Stadium to Boston’s South Station and possibly Providence full-time would be a great benefit for not just Patriot Place, but Foxboro as well.  As more people come into Foxboro every day and shop at Patriot Place, or dine at restaurants, the local economy will continue to grow.  For any great venue, accessibility is substantially important.  Full-time commuter rail to Foxboro would make it possible for a growing lifestyle and entertainment center to further connect to Boston, and bring in more tax revenue for Foxboro. 

With the increased number of commuter rail trains, the congestion in and around US-1 and I-95 would decrease, improving the traffic flow in the area.  This would not only be an improvement to the local economy, but an improvement to infrastructure as well.  Patriot Place’s location can be both its best asset and biggest challenge.  It is time to solve this problem, and bring full-time commuter rail to Foxboro.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Valentine Signing Gives Red Sox Great PR Opportunity

By Zach Baru

At a time when much of the media has been taking more shots at the Red Sox organization than all of the Bruins' powerplays this season, the signing of Manager Bobby Valentine is an excellent opportunity to prove that business is running smoothly on Yawkey Way.

The media can sway public opinion, and often turn the public against a franchise. The Red Sox need to ensure the public that they are in the driver’s seat, and there is no time like the present.

First and foremost, the Red Sox need to continue to show that order is in place in the front office. This involves establishing exactly where new General Manager Ben Cherington falls, in terms of power. The Red Sox should not let the media dictate this, they must continue to make it clear. The public needs to know exactly who is in charge, and should not have to question or debate this. Too much speculation over Cherington’s power has been discussed in the media, and the Red Sox must make this end.

This is certainly an important time for the Red Sox, as they have a powerful and extremely marketable brand.  Fortunately for the organization, Boston is a very forgiving town. Although any small issue can become a PR mess the next day, ultimately, New England fans are passionate and forgiving.

The perception of the Red Sox brand does not all revolve around one manager. And long-term, it certainly won’t revolve around one season. However, the importance of this off-season cannot be taken for granted.  Tonight was a success, and this must continue.  At a time when the Red Sox have the entire Boston media captivated, they have to take advantage, and use it to benefit the Red Sox brand.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at