The New England Patriots may have had the worst record in the National Football League last year, but a recent report from the Connecticut Development Authority says the state should use municipal bonds to build a new stadium in Hartford to entice the team to move there.
Team owner James T. Orthwein has indicated that he wants either to sell the team or to move it to his hometown of St. Louis when the lease ends at the Patriots' current Foxboro, Mass., stadium after the 1999 football season.
The authority's report. Prepared by the consulting firm of KPMG Peat Marwick, recommends that the Connecticut legislature approve the issuance of approximately $160 million of bonds for the projected $250 million needed to build the stadium.
The remaining $90 million would come from fees gained through rent, concessions, and private capital, said William J. Cibes, secretary of the state Office of Polley and Management.
The bonds would be backed by the general obligation of the state. But Cibes said sales and income taxes generated by the stadium would more than offset the debt service from the bonds.
The state would realize more than $7 million in additional taxes from the stadium and $11.2 million from construction of the stadium. Cibes said.
"We want to make it clear that this proposal would not place any added burden on the taxpayers." Cibes said. "The effects this could have on the city's economy makes it well worth the cost."
The Peat marwick report says a stadium in Hartford would create 100 full-year stadium jobs and more than 1,900, additional jobs in hotels, restaurants, and other service-related industries.
Although Hartford's population would rank 26th out of the 27 cities with professional football teams, the report says it ranks fourth in available income.
Enthusiasm has increased about the Patriots' chances during the past year. After a 2-and-14 season last year, the team hired former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells and signed former Washington State University quarterback Drew Bledsoe as its number one draft pick.
Although these two personnel charges are expected to help game attendance. the Peat Marwick report says that even without them the population in the 25-mile radius would attract an average of 65,000 fans per game.
The report does not say what kind of stadium should be built, but Cibes said he favors a 70.000-seat. open-air stadium. He said a domed stadium would cost the state approximately $320 million and would add only about 10% more events per year.
The report suggests two lease arrangements for the state. One would allow the state to keep control of the facility and receive all of the operating revenues and 10% of the NFL ticket revenues. In this case. the state would Pay the team a lump-sum payment and a percentage of profits after debt service.
The second plan would allow the team to take control of the stadium and all of the associated revenues and expenses and pay the state an annual lump sum.
Although the Tax Reform Act of 1986 bans private-activity, tax-exempt bond sales for stadiums. the measure does allow for state legislatures to approve the sale of state-backed, general obligation stadium bonds.
Hartford's desire to wrest the Patriots away from their current home in Foxboro has increased recently. An offer has been submitted by Philadelphia investor and previous Patriots part-owner Francis Murray that would bring the team to Hartford.
"This is a very exciting time for us," said Hartford Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry. "The ownership of the team has said Murray's offer will be decided within the next 60 days."
The mayor said the stadium would be located on Route 191 North and that it would have easy access to all major roadways.
She said the General Assembly will probably be called into emergency session to vote on authorizing the bonds.
"Mr. Orthwein has suggested he would prefer to keep the team in Boston," said Walter Metcalfe, attorney for the Patriots. "But he is assessing all the proposals and has not rejected any of them."
Massachusetts officials are not expected to let the team go without a fight. Last month. Gov. William F. Weld proposed that a $700 million megaplex be built that would bring the Patriots to Boston. The state legislature is expected to take up that proposal later this month when it returns to session.