PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – With all eyes on the World Cup, officials in two Rhode Island cities said Tuesday they’ve discussed the possibility of bringing the New England Revolution soccer franchise to the state.
A spokeswoman for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras confirmed to WPRI.com that the city’s economic development director “has had preliminary discussions with officials from the New England Revolution” while Central Falls Mayor James Diossa said he spoke personally to team president Brian Bilello about a move.
“I’ve heard they were interested from moving from Gillette [Stadium] and I made a call to the president and expressed the interest of the city in bringing them here,” Diossa told WPRI.com.
Diossa, who won a state championship as a soccer player at Central Falls High School, said Bilello was “receptive” to the idea, but made no commitments. He said he hopes to meet with team officials for further discussion.
A spokesperson for the Revolution did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
So why would the Revolution want to make a move?
The majority of Major League Soccer’s 19 franchises play in soccer-specific stadiums that were built or renovated with MLS ownership involvement, according to the league’s website. The Revolution, which plays on the same field as the New England Patriots and is owned by Robert and Jonathan Kraft, is one of four teams that play in a football stadium.
A Boston Magazine article published earlier this year labeled the Krafts the “worst owners in the league” for allowing the Revolution to “toil in obscurity.” The article went on to criticize the team’s poor attendance numbers at Gillette Stadium, arguing that the stadium’s size creates a “lifeless atmosphere.”
The team has also been a limited success. After reaching the MLS finals four times in six seasons between 2002 and 2007, the Revolution hasn’t finished above third place in the Eastern Conference since. The team is currently sitting in third place. Its average attendance of 15,355 is well-below the league average.
The Kraft family has long said the Revolution should move into a different stadium, but nothing has ever come to fruition. The Boston Globe reported earlier this month that Boston has been considered a potential landing spot for the team. Last week, the Revolution played a U.S. Open Cup match Brown University.
Diossa said he believes the Krafts should consider Rhode Island because of the diversity in and around the Blackstone Valley region. He said the area has a large Portuguese population as well South Americans, Central Americans and Africans who enjoy soccer.
He’s not wrong. Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch reported that Providence was the ninth-largest metered market in the country for those watching the United States-Germany World Cup match last week.
The MLS is gaining in popularity as well. Over the next several years, the league will add teams in New York City, Orlando, Atlanta and Miami. In May, it announced an eight-year television deal with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision that could be worth roughly $90 million per year. All Revolution games are televised on Comcast SportsNet.
Neither Central Falls nor Providence currently have a stadium that could house the Revolution and professional stadiums are considered massive development projects.
But Diossa said he believes the Revolution would be a hit in Rhode Island.
“I think it would be fascinating because this could become a venue for not just the Revolution, but where international teams can come play,” Diossa said.