Today I bring you a story that hits closer to home than any other I have written since the beginning of the Tanner Ba’. Please indulge me while I give you some backstory to today’s story.After meeting in Boston during the Second World War (you can read a bit more about that here), my Scottish immigrant grandmother and my Arkansas-born and raised grandfather settled in Lynn, MA- a working class city on Boston’s North Shore, and only about 10 miles outside of downtown Boston. After a few years in a rundown apartment they bought a house, a house where they would live for the next six decades, the house where my mother and aunt grew up and the only house they lived in during my lifetime. They, my grandparents, are buried next to each other less than a mile away from this house.
As a child my first experiences with Boston came with my grandmother and grandfather- particularly going to Fenway Park with my grandfather. Each one of these trips started the same way- we drove from my grandparent’s house, past the cemetery where they are now buried, past the plant where Marshmallow Fluff is made, past the West Lynn Creamery, past the giant RESCO incinerator that disposed of all of Parker Brothers “bad” toys, and finally, to Wonderland Station in Revere, the northern most stop on the MBTA’s Blue Line. This is where our soccer-related story begins.
Wonderland Station is named after the Wonderland amusement park that was once across the street, before it was replaced by the Wonderland Greyhound track. Wonderland is about 5 miles outside of downtown Boston, one stop past Revere Beach (America’s oldest public beach and one that still draws thousands of people each day during the summer, i.e. soccer season), and only a few more stops past Suffolk Downs, a thoroughbred track that, while still operational, does not have a bright future. The Wonderland dog track closed to live racing when greyhound racing was banned in Massachusetts in 2009, and it closed for all other purposes a year later. There has been talk of Wonderland or Wonderland-Suffolk Downs becoming the site of one of the three casino sites that have been approved by the state. The reasons for this being obvious: the site is huge, there is already ample parking, there are 4-6 subway stations within a reasonable walking distance of the site, it is close to Boston (Suffolk Downs is in East Boston), and it’s an area that, to put it nicely, could benefit from some economic improvement. I should also mention that East Boston/Revere has a very large and diverse Hispanic population- especially of Central American and Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) immigrants. Can you see where I’m going with all of this?
This morning’s Boston Globe is reporting that Revere mayor Dan Rizzo, who is hoping to acquire Suffolk Downs (part of which is in East Boston and part of which is in Revere) as a casino site for Revere, is also trying to make Wonderland part of the deal specifically for the purpose of luring the Revolution to the city/site (Wonderland and Suffolk Downs have the same owner).
More importantly, Revolution president Brian Bilello has confirmed that the club has been talking with Rizzo about the possibility of moving the club to the Wonderland site if the City of Revere is able to acquire it. Bilello’s reasoning being much the same as that which I have noted above: the site is close to downtown Boston, has plenty of mass transit available, has plenty of parking available, and is site which is more than big enough to hold a c. 20,000 seat stadium and the proposed casino.
The casino portion of the deal appears to be all but certain as only Suffolk Downs has applied for the one casino resort license to be offered by the state in the “greater Boston” area. The only stumbling block remaining concerning the casino is that Rizzo and Suffolk Downs must agree on compensation for Suffolk Downs owners (the city would essentially be taking the horse track’s land by “eminent domain”) and with Boston mayor Thomas Menino over the portion of the site which sits in East Boston. These deals may be easier to make than one might expect as, as The Globe points out, the law governing compensation in this case allows compensation to take many forms, including but not limited to: cash payments, new equipment, services, or local preferences in hiring.
While anything beyond the casino itself is only “talk” at this point, there seems to be- at least from the Revolution’s perspective- very little not to like about this deal. For the City of Revere, it seems that the addition of a soccer specific stadium (which could also be put to other uses as well) as part of a resort casino would only provide more jobs, more income, and more diversity of offerings to the project.
From the perspective of Revolution supporters it could mean the long-awaited SSS and the chance that it might have as perfect a name as, quite simply, “Wonderland.” Or “The Beachfront Ground.” Or, if they put it at the other end of the property, “The Downs.” The possibilities are endless.
For WeeFuse, well, it would be a slightly longer drive than Gillette Stadium currently is, but it would also mean the chance to do several important things on my way to each home match. First, I would stop for a steak and cheese sandwich at Nicky’s Pizza and Subs (across the street from my grandparent’s/mother’s old house). Not only is it the best I’ve EVER had, but a large is still just $4.50 (yes, you read that right). Nicky’s has been run by the same Greek family for the last 40 years, still makes all of it’s own pizza sauce and dough, and they are one of the few places you can still get a steak & egg sandwich- if you’re into that kind of thing. It would mean getting to drive by my grandparent’s/mom’s house for a trip down memory lane, and it would mean the chance to visit my grandparent’s graves if I felt up to it.
C’mon, Revs, make this happen!