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They're off and kicking
Robert H. Boyle
August 06, 1979
The owners of a harness track caught the New England Patriots offside and tried to throw them for a loss, until the governor proved himself to be a patriot at heart
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August 06, 1979

They're Off And Kicking

The owners of a harness track caught the New England Patriots offside and tried to throw them for a loss, until the governor proved himself to be a patriot at heart

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Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., 26 miles southwest of Boston, is the home of the New England Patriots of the NFL. The Stadium, which seats 61,297, was deemed an engineering miracle in 1971 after it was completed in less than a year for only $6.7 million. But now, folks, it turns out that somebody goofed. Parts of the stadium were built on land now belonging to Foxboro Associates, owners of the adjacent New England Harness Raceway. Eddie Andelman, a Boston radio personality and a partner in the harness track, has been threatening to lop off the intrusions. "I get the scoreboard," exults Bruce Cornblatt, Andelman's producer. "I want to try to put it in my living room."

The uproar over the stadium's mislocation and related controversies has been at such a pitch that, until Massachusetts Governor Edward King intervened last week, it appeared that the Patriots might have to switch their Labor Day opener against the Super Bowl champion Steelers, the first Monday night TV game of the season, to Pittsburgh.

The Pats will now get to play at home that night, thanks to a propaganda blitz by Billy Sullivan, the team's owner, but someday they could find Schaefer Stadium a heap of rubble. The Stadium Realty Trust, a publicly held corporation that rents the facility to the Pats, notes in its latest report to stockholders, "Counsel has advised the Trust that, in its opinion, it is unlikely that a court would order the removal of the various encroachments...although the possibility cannot be dismissed."

On a tour of the east stand of the stadium last week, Andelman pointed to the last few rows of seats. "They're on our property," he said. So is part of the sewage-treatment plant, and so are the entrances in the end zone with the scoreboard. Andelman pointed to the men's and ladies' rooms beneath the east stand. "These two structures are positively on our property," he said. By now, he was getting worked up. "Look down there," he said, indicating the almost two million cubic yards of fill that buttress the entire base of the east stand. "All that fill is on our property. I had an engineer look at the fill, and he said if we removed it the stadium would crumble within days."

In sum, says the angry Andelman, speaking in Bostonese, "If they want to play hahd ball, we can play hahd ball."

Who goofed? No one knows for sure yet, but the fact that somebody blundered by building part of the stadium on the wrong land might have escaped attention had not Andelman and his partners bought the track, which is situated on a 330-acre parcel, in late 1976. The seller was the Bay State Harness Horse Racing and Breeding Association, Inc., of which E. M. Loew was a majority stockholder.

Soon after the purchase, Andelman's group began to have difficulties with Phil David Fine, a nephew-in-law of Loew and the managing trustee of Stadium Realty Trust. Fine wears many hats. He is also an attorney, whose firm now represents Stadium Realty, and a banker. Specifically, Fine is the chairman of the board of the Commonwealth Bank and Trust Company, which held a mortgage on the Foxboro track. Andelman and his partners assumed the mortgage when they bought the track. No extensive title search was undertaken at the time. Later, they had a surveyor check the boundary lines, and in breathless tones he reported, "You won't believe this, but parts of the stadium are on your land."

Fine's Commonwealth Bank and Trust Company moved to foreclose, but the Andelman group had already secured a mortgage commitment from another bank. When the partners failed to make any headway with Stadium Realty about the encroachments, they called on Max O'Meara, a steely-eyed real estate entrepreneur and a member of the crew of Courageous, the America's Cup defender, to handle negotiations. Fine and Stadium Realty Trust soon broke off the talks. "They held up all my concepts to ridicule," says an indignant O'Meara, who has since become a part owner of the track.

Last winter matters worsened when the New England Tea Men of the North American Soccer League scheduled 15 games at Schaefer Stadium for the 1979 season that were in conflict with racing at the track. Andelman and his partners refused to give permission for those games. They noted that when Bay State had donated 15 acres of land to Foxboro for construction of the stadium, it had made it binding upon the Stadium Realty Trust not to hold any events interfering with racing dates. Among other things, traffic can become chaotic when both facilities are open. The Tea Men wouldn't take no for an answer and sued the track. Stadium Realty joined the Tea Men as co-plaintiff. In March a court ruled against the soccer team, and the case is now on appeal.

In April Billy Sullivan announced that the Pats were scheduled to open the season against the Steelers not on Sunday afternoon, as expected, but on Labor Day night. This date was also in conflict with the track's schedule, which had been announced by the racing commission five months earlier. Under the law, the track was forbidden to switch to afternoon racing on Labor Day because another track within 20 miles of Foxboro would be in operation. Sullivan immediately began drumming up media support to ensure that the Steeler game would be played at Schaefer.

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