Categories: News

IAG meeting highlights changes to White Stadium renovations, transportation plan

By Adam Swift                  

Transportation plans highlighted the second White Stadium Impact Advisory Group meeting held last week.                  In addition to diving into proposed changes to address transportation concerns from residents about the project, there were also several changes to the redevelopment of the stadium itself that were discussed.                  The redevelopment of White Stadium is a public-private partnership between the city and Boston Unity Soccer Partners. The private group is aiming to bring a women’s professional soccer team to the revamped stadium in 2026. The city has touted that the redeveloped stadium will be a greater asset for Boston Public Schools athletics as well as the public that uses Franklin Park.                  However, not everyone is on board for plans to revitalize the stadium and make it home to a professional soccer team.                  A group known as the Franklin Park Defenders is continuing legal action to try to stop the public-private partnership development in Franklin Park.                  According to the Franklin Park Defenders, there are concerns about the project, including what they call the unconstitutional privatization of public land; the displacement of BPS student-athletes and the local community from White Stadium and Franklin Park; the absence of a realistic transportation plan for 20 annual game days that will draw more than 10,000 attendees to the stadium; and any other concerts or events to be planned in the new facility once leased, and the lack of adequate community participation in decision making about how best to improve the park throughout an incredibly fast-moving redevelopment process.                  While the legal action was not brought up during last week’s presentation by the Boston Unity Soccer Partners team and city officials, there was an emphasis on transportation and other tweaks to the plans to address some concerns. A third IAG meeting is scheduled to take place in June.                  “A lot has happened since the last (IAG) meeting,” said Jennifer Epstein, the controlling manager for Boston Unity Soccer Partners. “I think you will see that the overall project continues to improve as we make adjustments based on all the comments we’ve received. The renovation of White Stadium is a true collaboration between the community, the city, and our team.”                  Morgan McDaniel, Boston’s deputy operations chief, gave a brief rundown of the long history of the attempts to renovate the historic White Stadium as well as the benefits of the current plan.                  “The partnership will provide transformative opportunities to revitalize the stadium as a hub for BPS athletics,” McDaniel said.                  The renovated stadium will feature a premium natural turf field, and there will be a dedicated maintenance position to keep the field and the surrounding areas clean and in good condition, McDaniel added.                  “We also believe that there are a lot of benefits to bringing a national women’s soccer team to Boston,” McDaniel said. “For many people in our community, it will boost community pride and set a new standard for student athletes.”                  The renovated stadium will provide for increased BPS and community use with new facilities and expanded hours, McDaniel said.                   “Boston Unity is going to be about 10 percent of the time taken up at the stadium, the rest of the time is going to be for BPS and community uses,” said McDaniel.                  Andre Vega of Moody Vega, part of the Boston Unity design team, highlighted some of the changes that have been made to the stadium renovation plans as the result of meetings with the BPS, the BPDA, and the Parks Commission.                  “We’ve reduced the overall width of the field, as well as the width of the east and west grandstands to be able to pull the east grandstands away from Playstead Road and away from the property line, which gives us the ability to preserve some of the trees along that property line,” said Vega.                  There are also changes to the Grove public access area, including the removal of a small building and the replacement of permanent fencing with temporary fencing to make it less visibly intrusive from the playstead area, Vega said. In addition the scoreboard in the stadium will be smaller than originally proposed and closer to the field.                  In addition, Vega said a new eight-lane track will provide new field sports opportunities at White Stadium.                  Nick Gove, the city’s deputy chief of transportation, said the city has collaborated and taken input to create a comprehensive transportation plan for White Stadium and the area for game days and beyond.                  “We have heard about the existing transportation challenges the community faces for any large events currently held at Franklin Park,” said Gove. “Since proposing this plan, the Boston Transportation Department and Boston Unity have been collaborating to best answer one particular question, which is how do we best manage traffic on NWSL game days to best serve residents and visitors while improving transportation challenges for existing events at White Stadium.”                  Gove said the city used public feedback from transportation meetings, Franklin Park Action Plan guidelines, city transportation initiatives in nearby neighborhoods, and a new commitment to staffing from the Boston Parks Department to help address the transportation issues.                  “One of the major advantages of this project is that there will be a transportation plan for events of all sizes both at the park and the stadium,” said Gove.                  Brian Beisel of transportation consultant Howard Stein Hudson said a major component of the transportation plan is that there will be no parking onsite for spectators. Those going to the games will use a combination of public transportation, off-site parking and shuttles throughout the region, rideshares, and bicycling and walking.                  Gove said the city is committed to supporting pedestrian and bicyclist safety as part of the project, and is implementing traffic calming and sidewalk improvements on the pedestrian routes from the nearest T stops to the stadium.                  There will be two loops, one to the north and one to the south, for shuttle buses traveling from the off-site parking areas to the stadium. While there could be as many as 75 shuttle buses over several hours coming into the two sites on game days, Beisel said there will only be four buses per shuttle parking area at any given time.                  The city’s transportation department will also be creating and implementing a neighborhood-specific game day parking program for residents and their visitors, Gove said. The resident permit parking stickers will be valid for four hours before and one hour after game times.                  Signs will be posted with the parking restrictions, and violators will be subject to a $100 fine as well as being towed. Gove said there will be increased enforcement from the transportation department on game days, and in addition, Boston Unity will be hiring a senior operations manager to help deal with public feedback on traffic, parking, and other operational issues.                  People attending the soccer games will not be allowed to park in Franklin Park, Gove added.                  “We know this is a really important topic and we want to assure people that we are working through this with various stakeholders, including the zoo, the golf course, and permit holders,” said Gove.                  Concerns raised by some IAG members included the potential lowering of the profile of the grandstands at the redeveloped stadium, as well as the ability to enforce traffic measures on game days and during other events.

Gazette Staff:
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