DiDomenico Updates City Council On Potential Everett Soccer Stadium

State Senator Sal DiDomenico appeared before the City Council’s subcommittee on conference last week to clarify the process for a potential soccer stadium for the New England Revolution across from the Encore Casino in Everett.

“I requested this so (DiDomenico) can give us an overview of where things are with the stadium and what our interest is in being at the table,” said Council President Leo Robinson.

DiDomenico noted that there have been a lot of reports in the press and on social media about the potential development of a soccer stadium on the Everett power plant site by the Kraft Group that have not been accurate.

The proposed development was first brought forward about a year and a half ago when the House of Representatives put an amendment to the economic development bill that looked to lift the Designated Port Area (DPA) designation and some of the public engagement process for the site. DiDomenico said the state Senate did not concur with the House bill, and that amendment never made it out of conference.

“Fast Forward to a few months ago, things started getting a little more traction, and as a result, I brought forward several of the environmental groups who were opposed to what happened in the House,” said DiDomenico. “I brought them together at the site to show them what is there, which is a dirty power plant right now. The power plant has been decommissioned and what you see is with the smokestacks and the building is not an attractive gateway to any community.”

The clean up of the site alone is expected to cost over $60 million, he said.

“To get someone to come into a community with private investments and private dollars and clean up that land at their own expense with no federal or state dollars is a big deal,” said DiDomenico.”

He said the site and building are so contaminated and dirty they have been polluting the land for decades.

The potential private development of the site would not only clean up a brownfields site, but provide a development that residents and the region could enjoy and provide public access to the waterfront.

“I brought the environmental folks together at this meeting with the Kraft Group, the mayor of Everett, and representatives of the city of Everett to talk about how we could proceed and what we thought would be the best avenue,” said DiDomenico. “At that time, the environmental groups initiated a conversation with the Kraft Group on a memorandum of agreement.”

DiDomenico said that reports that there was a host agreement with the city of Everett for the soccer stadium were false, because there is no official project at this time.

“At this point in time, the environmental folks wanted to have some sort of agreement in place with the Kraft Group before we move forward with legislation,” he said. “They felt it was important to have something on paper before anything was done at the State House. They initiated that conversation and they negotiated that agreement.”

DiDomenico said the mayor and city of Everett did not negotiate the agreement, but added that the mayor did sign the agreement because the environmental groups could not sign a binding agreement with the Kraft Group.

“The agreement with the city of Everett will come in the next phase; the mayor will negotiate that at a later date,” said DiDomenico.

The senator said there is currently one simple thing going on at the State House now and that there is no move to take away the public process when it comes to developing the power plant property.

“All we are saying is that this land where the power plant is today is on a DPA … which is maritime use only,” said DiDomenico. “There has not been maritime use on that property in several years.”

The DPA extends from the Alford Street Bridge in Everett into Chelsea and is one of the largest DPAs in the state, he added.

“We’re taking a very small piece of the larger DPA, which is where the power plant sits,” said DiDomenico.

By allowing the change in the DPA, it would kickstart the public process for the larger project, he added.

“All we are doing is this one simple step to get to the next step, which is the public process,” DiDomenico said. “If we don’t lift the DPA, there is no public process after that because there is no project.”

If the effort to lift the DPA is ultimately unsuccessful, DiDomenico said there will be no soccer stadium on the site.

“And I fear we will see what we see on that site now in the next five, 10, 15 years – a dirty power plant with smokestacks sitting on a waterfront with no public access,” said DiDomenico. “I don’t know who else would come into a community and spend $60 million-plus to clean up the land.”

The power plant site would be more expensive to clean up than the Encore casino property, he added.

The present plans for the soccer stadium call for a 25,000-seat stadium with limited parking.

“There has to be a robust public transportation infrastructure in place,” said DiDomenico. “That is all going to be part of the process after the DPA is lifted.”

DiDomenico noted that there are a number of public transportation improvements for the area that are already part of Everett’s agreement with the casino.

The proposal to lift the DPA was initially in a supplemental budget bill that did not make it through the House.

“They had some questions about different things and wanted to have some more time,” DiDomenico said. “The next step would be for me to file a standalone bill that will entail a hearing for the public and will go through the committee process.”

That process could take several months, he said.

Councilor-at-Large Damali Vidot said she understood the need to have positive development on the property rather than an abandoned power plant, but said Chelsea needs to be a part of the conversation about what happens on the site.

“The concern is the impact it has on the quality of life for our residents,” she said.

District 1 Councilor Todd Taylor noted that there are many people in the city who are concerned about the mitigation process.

“It seems like a lot of communities around us aren’t really stepping up to the plate on a lot of different issues,” said Taylor. “Chelsea is in kind of a unique situation and we have problems getting enough state funding as it is.”

Taylor said he supports economic activity, but that he doesn’t want Chelsea left behind when it comes to being able to afford taking care of infrastructure and other issues.

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