What does Boston’s TD Garden teach Buffalo about stadium financing?

Jeremy Jacobs is the owner of the Boston Bruins and Delaware North. Forbes estimates his net worth at more than $5 billion.

TD Garden, often called The Garden, is a multi-purpose arena in Boston, Massachusetts named after a subsidiary of Canada’s Toronto-Dominion Bank. It opened in 1995 as a replacement for the original Boston Garden and has been known as FleetCenter, among more than a dozen other names. The arena is located directly above the MBTA’s North Station, making it a busy transit hub. It is the biggest sports and entertainment arena in New England and nearly 3.5 million people attend events at the arena each year.

TD Garden is the home arena for the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics. It is owned by Delaware North, whose CEO, Jeremy Jacobs, also owns the Bruins.

As early as the late 1970s, the Bruins were looking for a new arena. The Boston Garden was approaching 50 years old at the time. The Jacobs family, who had bought the Bruins in 1975, were looking to build a 17,000-seat arena in suburban Boston after negotiations fell through with the City of Boston. The team nearly moved to Salem, New Hampshire. That fell through and the Bruins continued to reside in Boston Garden.

In 1985, Boston Garden owner Delaware North was awarded the rights to construct a new arena by the Boston Redevelopment Authority and Mayor Raymond Flynn. However, poor economic conditions delayed the project.

On May 8, 1992, Delaware North announced that it had secured funding for a new arena, in the form of $120 million worth of loans evenly split between Bank of Boston, Fleet Bank of Massachusetts, and Shawmut National Corporation. That December, a bill approving construction of the new arena was killed in the Massachusetts Senate by Senate President William M. Bulger.

Legislative leaders and Delaware North attempted to reach an agreement on plans for the new arena, but in February 1993 Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs announced that he was backing out of the project as a result of the legislature’s demand that his company pay $3.5 million in “linkage payments”.

Then-Governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld, lent strong support to a “Chapter 15” piece of legislation that included a “section 7” that explicitly required Delaware North to, as the legislation termed it, “administer, produce, promote and sponsor no less than three charitable events per year at the New Boston Garden” and pay the proceeds from such events to the formerly-titled Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), today’s Department of Conservation and Recreation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Two weeks later, after a new series of negotiations, the two sides finally came to an agreement, and on February 26 the Legislature passed a bill that allowed for the construction of a new sports arena.

Before the 2006–2007 season, the TD Garden underwent a major overhaul, installing a new HD entertainment board. For basketball, video advertising panels (installed by the NCAA for the 2006 Women’s Final Four) replaced the traditional scrolling panels and added a see-through shot clock, joining the FedExForum, Wells Fargo Center, State Farm Arena, Talking Stick Resort Arena, United Center, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, and the Spectrum (this was done before the NBA mandate was installed in 2011).

In addition, a vintage siren, just as the original Boston Garden had used, was added to replace the end-of-period horn for hockey only, a feature of the Montreal Canadiens, the Bruins’ arch-rivals, at the Montreal Forum (now the Pepsi Forum shopping centre) and the current Centre Bell. In 2009, an LED energy-efficient lighting system was added to the exterior of the building.

The Boston Globe announced a $70 million project upgrade to TD Garden’s concourses and Legends Club restaurant, along with technology upgrades and the relocation of a retail shop. Construction occurred in two phases, summer 2014 and then summer 2015.  A slew of lighting and technology improvements ensured in the following years.

In the spring of 2017, a group of local teenagers from the Hyde Square Task Force investigated the terms of TD Garden’s original development agreement and concluded that its owners had never satisfied a legal requirement to host three fundraisers a year to benefit the agency that oversees Boston’s recreational facilities.

By mid-August 2017, the Massachusetts governor at the time of the TD Garden’s original construction, Bill Weld, reminded Jeremy Jacobs about the deal he had made with the state’s government in 1993 concerning the agreement. As a result, in August 2017, the TD Garden agreed to pay the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation nearly $2 million.

(When Weld ran for Governor of New York in 2006, his running mate for Lt. Governor was Chris Jacobs, the nephew of Jeremy Jacobs).

Just as the Boston Garden was, the TD Garden is built on top of Boston’s North Station, a major transportation hub. The Commuter Rail waiting area becomes crowded during events due to this design: the fans shared a relatively small area with commuters and several fast food concessions.


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