Patriots preview: The Krafts

Glen Farley

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has a vision for Patriot Place, the 1.3 million square-foot "super-regional lifestyle and entertainment center" being constructed on the grounds of Gillette Stadium.

"I want to make it a special place," said Kraft, "that people throughout New England will want to visit often."

Which is pretty much what he's made the stadium itself since purchasing the Patriots on Jan. 21, 1994.

Rewind to the day Kraft reached an agreement to purchase the team from James Busch Orthwein and become the fourth owner in the franchise's 35-year history.

"My objective in buying the Patriots," Kraft announced on that very day, "is to help bring a championship to New England."

History shows that Kraft has made good on his objective three times over in the 13 years he's owned the team.

Kraft's impact on the franchise was immediate.

The Patriots' sale to Kraft became official on Feb. 25, 1994. The following day, Patriots fans responded to the sale by braving a New England winter storm to purchase 5,958 season tickets, obliterating the previous franchise single-day sales record of 979.

That quickly, the Patriots began their transformation from laughingstock - a team that had gone 225-276-9 lifetime, 19-61 from 1989-93 - to rising stock.

How has Kraft's impact on the Patriots been felt since then?

Let us count the ways.

"In Kraft's first 13 seasons in the NFL (1994-2006), no other NFL team won more, or more often, than the New England Patriots," reads Kraft's biography in the team's media guide.

Public relations puff? Hardly.

In addition to their three Super Bowl crowns, the Patriots have claimed four AFC championships and seven AFC East titles with Kraft signing the checks.

During that time, the Patriots have registered more wins (144), including more playoff victories (15), than any other NFL team, all the while compiling the league's highest winning percentage both overall (.629) and in the postseason (.714).

Now, Bill Belichick may have a little something to do with that. Then again, who hired the guy, erasing the mistake he made with Pete Carroll, and was willing to surrender a first-round draft pick to acquire his coaching rights to do it?

Come 2002, the Patriots had a home befitting NFL kings, leaving the long-since-outdated Foxboro Stadium to open Gillette, the state-of-the-art stadium that is the House That Kraft Built.

He built it; they have continued to come.

New England fans have packed Gillette since it opened, selling the stadium out for every Patriots home game, extending a streak that dates back to the 1994 season opener under Kraft.

Winners on the field and off it, in 2005 the Patriots were tabbed "The Best Team in Sports," the value of the franchise placed at $1 billion.

Soon, the stadium they call their home will have neighbors such Bass Pro Shops and Bed, Bath & Beyond, Christmas Tree Shops and Circuit City - the four stores scheduled to open Patriot Place in November.

Come the fall of 2008, the $325 million stadium will be surrounded by a $350 million complex that will feature a 14-screen Cinema DeLux movie theater with seating for 3,000, a live entertainment venue that will seat 500, a 100,000-square-foot medical facility, a Patriots museum (the Hall at Patriots Place), retail shops, restaurants, and a 150-room Renaissance Hotel & Spa.