Why Don’t the New England Patriots Play in Boston?

Even without Tom Brady, the New England Patriots have still established themselves as one of the NFL’s top franchises. They will be without their future Hall of Famer quarterback, but as long as Bill Belichick is calling the shots, they at least have a shot to stay competitive. The Patriots weren’t always on top of the football world, however. It’s only over the past 20 years that the team has become dominant. 

Looking back through the franchise’s history, one may wonder why the team plays outside of Boston, which is the biggest metropolitan area in New England. There’s a reason for this. Let’s take a closer look at why the Patriots don’t play in Beantown. 

The formation of the New England Patriots franchise

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As noted above, the Patriots haven’t always been great. The team actually had a rather long history of mediocrity with some short spurts of greatness mixed in.

The franchise’s history extends all the way back to the old American Football League, or the AFL. Renegade owners formed the AFL as an answer to the NFL in the early ’60s. Eventually, it challenged the league for professional football dominance. After several years in which they matched up in the Super Bowl, the two leagues eventually merged. 

According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, Boston businessman Billy Sullivan, Jr. formed the Patriots in 1960. The Pats weren’t quite the championship dynamos they’d become in the current era, but their AFL run was marked with much success. In 1963, they won the AFL Eastern Division title, losing to the San Diego Chargers in the AFL championship game.

The different home stadiums of the New England Patriots

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The Patriots current play in Gillette Stadium, a state-of-the-art facility located in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It’s not the only place they’ve played, however. According to the site Curbed Boston, here are some other locations the Pats have called home: 

  • Foxboro Stadium. This is the stadium they played in from 1971-2002. Gillette is located right across the street from it. 
  • Harvard Stadium. The team spent one year here from 1970-1971. It only seats a little more than 30,000, so to remain competitive they needed a stadium with a much higher capacity. 
  • Alumni Stadium. From 1969-1970, the team played at Boston College’s home field. 
  • Fenway Park. Located in the heart of Boston and known more for its baseball history, Fenway actually hosted the Pats as well from 1963-1969. 
  • Nickerson Field. This is where the Pats got their start.

Before moving to Foxboro, the Pats played in Boston exclusively and were actually known as the Boston Patriots. So why don’t they play there now? 

Why don’t the Patriots play in Boston? 

New England Patriots fans celebrating in the stands after a victory
New England Patriots fans celebrate a victory over the New York Jets | Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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WGBH in Boston did a story on how the city of Boston lost the Patriots. As part of the AFL-NFL merger, all franchises agreed to certain terms. One of those terms was that no NFL stadium could have a capacity of fewer than 50,000 fans. According to Sullivan’s son Pat, the team attempted to strike a deal with Boston on a new stadium before they departed. They had no such luck. According to the report: 

“It was a combination of things…Kevin White was the mayor and Kevin White was not particularly that interested in professional sports. There was a lot of turf in-fighting and ‘We’re not gonna put it in my backyard’ kind of thing.”

It’s pretty mind-boggling when you think about it. Not only is having an NFL franchise in a city an extremely profitable venture no matter where you live, but New England has the NFL’s top franchise over the past 20 years.

In multiple ways, the city of Boston struck out. Even though Brady’s gone, Boston likely wishes it held onto the Pats when they had the chance.