Like many New England Revolution season ticket holders, Josh Decosta is a passionate fan who attends most home matches.
But getting to and from games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. – which is 23 miles away from his home in Jamaica Plain – has always been a challenge.
Since Decosta doesn’t own a car, he has to either carpool with fellow supporters or, on rare occasions, take a commuter train to Walpole, the town next to Foxborough, then bike five miles to the stadium.
Decosta’s situation isn’t an anomaly, and the Revolution, who are eager to connect with fans in urban areas and have worked for years to secure ground for a soccer-specific stadium near the heart of Boston, are taking notice.
The club is joining forces with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for a “trial run” of train service between downtown Boston and Gillette Stadium for Sunday’s home finale against New York City FC.
The train will depart Boston’s South Station at 2:10 p.m. and make three stops before pulling into Foxboro Station – adjacent to the Gillette Stadium parking lots – at 3:30 p.m., about 90 minutes before the match kicks off. The return train leaves 30 minutes after the final whistle.
“If you live in Boston, owning a car is kind of pointless,” Decosta told Pro Soccer USA in a phone interview. “You sit in traffic, parking is an issue, and I’ve discovered that I can do most things I need to do on foot, with my bike or on public transit.”
“I’m excited about this trial run and I’ve been trying to pump up the news about it on my own,” Decosta added. “I’ve told some of my co-workers about it and they aren’t season ticket holders, but they’re considering going to the game because now there’s a way for them to get there. This is something I’ve brought up with my season ticket account representative many times over the years.”
Though Sunday will mark the first time train service has run to Gillette Stadium for a Revolution regular season game, the MBTA usually operates for all New England Patriots games. The MBTA will also launch a trial run of weekday service from Boston to the stadium in October.
The Revolution have not commented on this weekend’s service beyond confirming that Sunday’s train is part of a trial run, though the Boston Globe reported Thursday that the Kraft Group, which owns the Revolution, the Patriots and Gillette Stadium, will pay for the cost of running the train not recovered by the $20 roundtrip tickets. So far, the Kraft Group has not had to kick in any money.
Both of the Revolution’s official supporters groups, the Midnight Riders and the Rebellion, have expressed excitement over the prospect of future train service on game days.
The Midnight Riders say 20 percent of their members live in towns or cities serviced by the MBTA subway system, though the group is eager to see if future train service could also bring in new fans.
“We are more excited about the prospect of attracting new members who may have not come to games due to the lack of service,” the group told Pro Soccer USA in a statement.
Rebellion president Matthew Puglise offered a similar assessment.
“The idea of new members and people discovering not only the Revs, but the supporter culture as well, is very exciting,” he said.
Longtime Revolution fans who aren’t season ticket holders are hopeful too. Jared Alves, who has followed the Revolution closely since 1996, also doesn’t own a car and lives in Boston’s North End. He plans to take the train to Sunday’s game with his partner, cousin, friend and two brothers, all of whom rarely attend games.
For eight years, Alves lived in Washington, D.C., and within walking distance of RFK Stadium, which meant he could go to D.C. United games any time he wanted. Now back in his home state, difficult logistics have made it so Alves has attended only one game this year.
“As it stands, going to games requires advance planning,” Alves said. “I miss the spontaneity of being able to decide to go to a game, buy tickets, and then just go like I did when I worked in D.C. I’m excited about this weekend, and my family and friends are excited.”
Proponents of this idea point to a few benefits: The train gives a sizable group of current and potential Revolution fans who live in Boston or don’t own cars easy access to Gillette Stadium, it’s more eco-friendly than driving and it’s a safer mode of transportation for fans who consume alcohol at games.
The club has stated numerous times that it wants to be closer to downtown Boston in the long run. Most Revolution fans have been clamoring for details on the status of potential stadium sites, though the front office has remained mum outside of a few rumors and scrapped plans in recent years.
For now, a train could be the best way to get urbanites closer to New England soccer.
“I want the stadium,” Decosta said. “But I’m not the type of person that if we don’t have a stadium, I won’t show up.
“This is a compromise I’ll take: a commuter rail schedule that works for games. It’s better than hitching a ride with folks all the time or paying for a taxi or riding a bike.”