Secret Boston 2024 Olympic bid documents that were revealed by Boston magazine last month report confusing costs for Franklin Park’s proposed venues—and apparently leave the public on the hook for most of the $45 million White Stadium renovation fundamental to the plan.
On detailed plans of each venue, the total venue costs are reported as only $100,000. On a separate spreadsheet of various venue costs, a total of $20 million is budgeted for White Stadium.
Boston 2024 appears to assume that the City of Boston will pay for most of the stadium renovation with public funds as originally proposed two years ago. But the renovation has been on hold due to taxpayer-cost concerns since well before the bid was submitted.
All of this could mean that Boston 2024 either must absorb a major new venue cost into its bid, convince the City to pony up public funding for the stadium, or find another location.
The same bid documents have drawn major attention for revealing Boston 2024’s plan to use tax-increment financing—a form of public funding—for land acquisition and infrastructure costs for its proposed main Olympic stadium in South Boston.
Boston 2024 did not respond to Gazette questions. In other media, its officials have repeatedly dismissed any concerns about the secret bid documents, essentially saying worries are irrelevant because a new draft of the bid is on its way by the end of this month.
That new bid is supposedly being written based on public input, but Boston 2024 has never released its full bid document for the public to comment on. Even with the Boston magazine revelations, parts of the bid remain secret. The Franklin Park Coalition has repeatedly complained that Boston 2024 failed to give it enough information to give use feedback.
Boston 2024 claims it is withholding only “proprietary” and “competitive” information, but that includes virtually all financial details and security planning. Among the secret sections revealed by Boston magazine was a list of the bid’s “weaknesses and threats,” which include “land acquisition and control,” “community concerns,” and “optics of the cost of the Games.”
Among the Franklin Park information kept secret is venue costs. It turns out that Boston 2024 did not merely withhold that information, but actually deleted it from the venue documents, along with a numbering system that would have made the deletion obvious.
Now the venue costs are public, but it is unclear what they mean.
Boston 2024 proposes Franklin Park as the site of equestrian events and the modern pentathlon. The venues include a renovation and temporarily expanded White Stadium—including a new swimming pool—and a temporary complex of buildings, stables and grandstands around the golf course.
On bid document pages showing detailed plans for each of these venues, the “projected venue cost for use” is listed as only $100,000 (written as one-tenth of $1 million) and “shared.” It is unclear what “shared” means in that context, or how so many structures could cost so little.
Meanwhile, on a spreadsheet of venue costs, the pentathlon venue—White Stadium—is given a $15 million construction cost estimate, and another $5 million for “permanent works” slated to be built in 2022 through 2024.
There is no explanation of those numbers. But it appears that $15 million would cover the temporary expansion, while the $5 million is the same amount as a long-planned private contribution to the stadium renovation. That would leave the public funding the rest.
The White Stadium renovation—proposed prior to the Olympics bid—was previously projected to cost $45 million alone. But the Boston 2024 bid does not list that cost. In an introduction section, the bid refers to a “rebuilt White Stadium” as “scheduled to be significantly improved in the next two years,” without any budget or similar details.
But Mayor Martin Walsh put the White Stadium renovation planning on hold last summer for an indefinite period. The Mayor’s Office told the Gazette at that time that the plan would “require significant City investment” and needed further review with the goal of “protecting taxpayer dollars.”
City communications chief Laura Oggeri told the Gazette this week that the White Stadium plan remains on hold. She also confirmed the accuracy of a Boston Globe story last Sunday that quoted Walsh as saying, “Unfortunately, we don’t have room under the bonding cap right now. It’s something we would love to see happen, but it’s just a large expense with so many other capital needs in the city.”
The White Stadium renovation was first proposed in 2013 by John Fish, the construction tycoon who co-founded and formerly served as chairman of Boston 2024. Much like the Olympics bid, Fish created the idea in secret, and it came as a surprise to Franklin Park advocates, who sought more information.
Fish proposed that Boston Scholar Athletes, a nonprofit organization he founded, would provide $5 million of the funding. BSA was involved in private, invitation-only meetings about the Boston 2024 bid before it was filed, according to City emails obtained and published by the Bay State Examiner website.
The bid documents make no mention of Fish’s involvement in the White Stadium plan, though they do note that BSA might use the finished facility.
The bid also proposes restoring and upgrading the Franklin Park golf course. But on a list of such “legacy” projects, the cost estimates are empty, simply marked with a dash.
The release of the secret bid documents came about after Boston 2024 opponents began filing public-records requests with the University of Massachusetts Boston, whose for-hire consulting division issued a study of the bid’s potential economic impacts earlier this year. Opponents realized that Boston 2024 may have shared secret details via email with researchers at UMass, which is a public institution.
One bid critic, Boston attorney Joel Fleming, acquired UMass emails that contained still-secret parts of the “bid book” that Boston 2024 filed with the U.S. Olympic Committee. That led Boston magazine to file its own requests with UMass seeking the full bid book, with the school ultimately releasing the version it possessed. At a recent meeting in Arlington, Boston 2024 officials reportedly refused to release the rest of the bid.