Franklin Park Coalition survey shows mixed feelings toward White Stadium renovation

By Adam Swift

The Franklin Park Coalition unveiled the results of a recent survey on the use of the park and attitudes toward the proposed renovation of White Stadium at an online meeting earlier this week.

The results show that the majority of the more than 700 respondents would either support or consider supporting the stadium plans if some issues were addressed, while 20 percent of respondents said they are outright opposed to the project.

Boston Unity Soccer Partners have a public-private partnership with the city of Boston and Boston Public Schools to renovate White Stadium to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Boston in 2026.

Under the agreement with the city, Boston Unity will redevelop the west grandstands and create a public area called the Grove just outside the entrance of the stadium. The city would be responsible for the redevelopment of the east grandstands as well as the field itself.

Boston Unity would have full use of the stadium for about 20 game days from May through November, while the updated stadium would be open for use by the city, school sports and other activities, and possible community events the rest of the year.

Mayor Michelle Wu has been a vocal supporter of the project, noting that the redevelopment would lead to greater and better use of the facility by the Boston Public Schools and Franklin Park users.

However, the  the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and 15 citizens filed suit against the city of Boston, Wu, Boston Unity Soccer Partners LLC, Boston City Council President Ruthzee Louijeune, and others to stop what it characterizes as the proposed privatization of White Stadium and 1.5 acres of surrounding public parkland in Franklin Park.

Franklin Park Coalition member Jacob Bor presented the findings of that group’s public survey on Tuesday night. The survey was conducted from Feb. 20 through March 8, with 712 respondents from the surrounding neighborhoods to the park. Of those respondents, the most were from Jamaica Plain, with a total of 373, or just over half of those who answered the survey.

“The objective of the survey was to gauge and represent accurately the interests and concerns of Franklin Park users, and concerns of Franklin Park users regarding the White Stadium proposal in order to meet with the city to ensure that these concerns are addressed,” said Bor.

Asked how they use the park, 90 percent of those who responded said they use it for quiet walks or bike rides, followed by 57 percent who use if for festivals and other cultural events, 34 percent who use it for picnics or other gatherings, 34 percent who use White Stadium itself for private activities such as running, 32 percent who use the park and stadium for sports, and 17 percent who said they use the stadium for BPS sports events and activities.

Bor said that 94 percent of the respondents are regular park users, visiting Franklin Park at least seasonally, while 63 percent use the park at least once per week.

The survey included several questions about the White Stadium renovation proposal.

While 96 percent of respondents said they had previously heard of the stadium proposal and 70 percent had seen the plans for at least one of the components, only 36 percent had attended at least one of the four public forums on the project, and only 4 percent had attended all of them.

“This is a really important point to highlight, the city has had this public engagement process with these meetings, but this survey (shows) that there really are a lot of people who haven’t been at these meetings,” said Bor, adding that two-thirds of respondents did not attend a single meeting.

Asked about their attitude toward the White Stadium proposal, 31 percent stated they were all for it, 24 percent were cautiously supported, 25 percent had some concerns, and 20 percent said they were against it no matter what.

“There are different ways to look at these data, but it is clear that there is somewhat more support than there is opposition, but really, the biggest category here is the combination of these categories in the middle,” said Bor. “These are people who might support it, but have some concerns or have some reservations before they can say that I am all for it.”

The results showed that attitudes toward the project were fairly consistent between the different neighborhoods surveyed.

However, those who said they use Franklin Park on a daily basis were less likely to say they were “all for” the project. People who do not use the park for “quiet walks and bike rides” were less likely to oppose the project.

The survey also included several open-ended questions, asking respondents the benefits they think the stadium renovation will bring, improvements they would like to see surrounding the stadium, concerns about the impact of the project on community use and the park overall, and what they would like to see included in the proposal to avoid or mitigate negative impacts.

One of the key themes many hit upon on the benefits of the renovation questions was that they would bring upgraded amenities and infrastructure to the park, as well as empower women’s and student sports and increase inclusivity at the park.

Suggestions for improvements that were popular included tending and protecting woods and wild spaces and providing well-maintained and lighted pathways, as well as public access to amenities.

A number of respondents said they would also like to see improved pedestrian and bicycle safety in and around the park, as well as a traffic and parking plan for the stadium and park as a whole.

Some of the key themes among the concerns were centered on traffic and parking, public and community use of the park, and environmental and green space preservation. 

“One person said we need quiet, wildlife, and natural environments to be preserved, not encroached upon,” said Bor. “Franklin Park is an incredible treasure.”

Other concerns that were raised included noise and light pollution and disruptions, equity and inclusivity issues, and the impact on existing park activities, as well as concerns about the overall design.

When asked how they would like to see included in the project to avoid negative impacts, key themes that were hit upon included reducing the size of the project; minimizing light, noise, and litter; protecting existing events and activities from being displaced; investing in park areas around the stadium; and integrating the park into the Franklin Park Action Plan.

There were also a number of responses to several of the questions noting that there were concerns about the transparency and community engagement process about the project from the city.

“While opinion on the park proposal is divided, respondents were virtually unanimous in their love for Franklin Park and their feeling that this proposal must uplift the park and respect current uses,” said Bor.

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