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Friday, May 4, 2012
Jacobs plans expansion around Garden

By Joe McDonald

BOSTON -- The Jacobs family, owners of the Boston Bruins and TD Garden, are planning a major development project on the site of the old Boston Garden that will include retail, restaurants, sports bars and a new pro shop for both the Bruins and Celtics.

Charlie Jacobs, the Bruins’ principal and alternate governor, discussed the plans Thursday afternoon. While the plans are in “Phase 1,” Jacobs did say there are no plans to put an ice rink or practice facility in the planned complex, which will be adjacent to TD Garden.

“Our hope is that the game experience for any event-goer, when they enter into what would be the Garden, or at least the mall almost -- the mall perhaps is the wrong term, but the thoroughfare from Causeway Street into the North Station and then with elevators going up into the Garden,” Jacobs said.

“I would anticipate it would be a mixed use of retail, some food and beverage, a bar and a large pro sports shop for both Bruins and Celtics. I imagine there will be a number of shops as well that will be on ground floor.”

There will also be expanded offices for the MBTA and the Garden’s box office.

“It’s rather cramped now,” Jacobs said. “And as you move up, we’re exploring a bunch of alternatives in terms of who would be the best tenant. Ideally you’d get a nice tenant in there for some term -- when I say term I’m thinking 15 to 25 years -- with some good credit rating. From there, I think that will be phase one. And I believe this will be a project that will take several phases. Phase one is just what I’ve just described.”

While Jacobs admitted he does not anticipate a plan for an ice rink in the new complex, the team is looking into other options for a new state-of-the-art practice facility that is closer to the Garden. Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass., is currently the team’s practice facility. The Bruins have one more year on their lease with Wilmington.

“Cam [Neely] and I have been collaborating a bit on what should be the best facility for us moving forward,” Jacobs said. “We batted and considered Wilmington around a bit and obviously also explored some other locations. We like to think of our training facility and practice facilities as a drawing card for players that might be playing in other markets and look at us and say, ‘jeez, I’d love to come to Boston, not only for the atmosphere, but for the environment’ the day-to-day environment where they practice. The practice facility really does need to be, if you will, world class in that regard.”

Jacobs and Neely have formed a committee to find the right location that’s within a “very short driving distance” to the Boston Garden.

“We’re in the process of that now. We don’t have any final answers to share with you today, other than saying we’ve done a lot of work on this subject and I think we’re drawing to a real good conclusion,” Jacobs said.

Also, the current North Station parking garage below the Garden will receive an upgrade with added exits. Jacobs explained that his Delaware North Company recently signed a 75-year lease with the MBTA for the North Station parking and have already applied for permits for the additional exits that will spill onto Causeway Street once completed.

“We’ve been working hard on that front, nothing is sort of ready for ‘prime time’ but there is movement afoot on that and we do have some plans in the works,” Jacobs said. “As you know, we leased it for 75 years in the hopes that we can better serve our customers going forward on game nights.”

Those exits will not be completed by October. Jacobs could not put a timetable on completion of the parking garage expansion.

“As anybody who has attended a game or any event at the Garden, it can be very difficult to get out and I personally have experienced it,” Jacobs said. “It’s a grind and our hope is to improve that experience by having an extra outlet.”