Stadium Firsts: New England Patriots at Schaefer Stadium, 8/15/1971

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In Stadium Firsts, we look at programs and other ephemera marking the debut of sports teams in their home venues. 

The football venue originally known as Schaefer Stadium broke ground in September 1970 and opened for its primary tenant, the NFL’s New England Patriots, on August 15, 1971. In an early example of stadium naming rights being sold to corporations, the stadium was named after the Schaefer Brewing Company. In 1983 Anheuser-Busch bought the Patriots and renamed the venue to Sullivan Stadium. A third and final name change occurred in 1990 when the building became Foxboro Stadium.

But going back to that first game — the Patriots themselves entered the 1971 NFL season under a new identity. The Boston identifier, which had been with the franchise since its founding in the AFL in 1960, was changed first to the Bay State Patriots and finally the New England Patriots. The team’s first home game with their new name and new arena came during the 1971 NFL preseason, during an August 15 contest against the New York Giants.


More than 60,000 people turned out to watch the Pats beat New York, 20-14. The team only won 6 games in 1971 but that was still their highest win total since 1966.

The program itself is fairly standard and features a design meant to celebrate the league’s Hall of Fame induction weekend. The class that year consisted of Jim Brown, Bill Hewitt, Frank (Bruiser) Kinard, Vince Lombardi, Andy Robustelli, Y.A. Tittle, and Norm Van Brocklin.

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One comment

  1. Slight correction: Anheuser Busch never owned the Patriots. Billy Sullivan owned the Patriots from the team’s inception in 1960 until 1988 when he sold the team to Victor Kiam. Facing bankruptcy, Kiam sold the Pats to James Orthwein – a member of the Busch family – in 1992. Orthwein’s ownership interest was personal and was not in any official capacity on behalf of the brewery.

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