Franklin Park remains a proposed Olympics venue in Boston 2024’s second-draft bid unveiled June 29. The updated plan has two big changes: the removal of a pentathlon swimming pool, and Columbia Road through Dorchester transforming into a kind of parkway.
In addition, Boston 2024 told the Gazette it intends to pay for the entire White Stadium renovation required for the Franklin Park venue plan.
The board of the Franklin Park Coalition, the park’s major nonprofit friends group, said in a written statement that it remains “unable to support or oppose” Boston 2024’s plan due to many unanswered questions. But, it added, behind-the-scenes conversations continue.
On June 30, Boston 2024 presented the bid to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which will decide whether to move ahead on an official bid submission to the International Olympic Committee, a move with a September deadline.
Created with no public notice and moving forward with only one community meeting, Boston 2024’s local venue plan has been controversial for secrecy and triggered the NoBoston2024 movement. The process has been so secretive that it was unknown whether Franklin Park would remain a venue in the second-draft bid.
Regarding the Olympic use of Franklin Park, Bid 2.0 contains few changes or concrete details. The historic park is still proposed as the host of the modern pentathlon and equestrian cross-country racing and “dressage,” also known as “horse ballet.”
However, the swimming part of the pentathlon—and the pool needed for it—would go to some other venue, according to the FPC board statement. That pool was originally proposed by Boston 2024 as the main post-Games “legacy” project for the park, an offer that was heavily questioned by the public.
An illustration of a refurbished White Stadium shows it essentially stripped down to modernist bleachers, with new tennis courts and ball fields nearby. Large temporary stands would be added during the Olympics.
A big proposal is a Boston 2024-funded “expansion of the Emerald Necklace from Franklin Park to Columbia Point along Columbia Road.” This appears to mean turning Columbia Road, at the park’s northeast corner, into a kind of greenspace-lined parkway.
Bid 2.0 says the park’s “legacy” projects would be a “refurbished golf course and park lands” and a “revitalized public stadium and track.”
It also offers operating budgets for the various venues: Cross-country at $26,059,000; dressage at $37,770,000; and the modern pentathlon at $6,740,000.
According to Boston 2024 spokesperson Dave Wedge, those costs include renovations to the City-owned White Stadium. While that is a capital expense, the bid document refers to the funds coming from Boston 2024’s operating budget, Wedge said. The original bid seemed to assume the City would fund stadium renovations under a prior, but stalled, plan proposed by former Boston 2024 board chair John Fish.
The FPC board statement said Boston 2024 provided it with the estimated lengths of time various parts of the park would be closed for Olympics preparation and use. They include: White Stadium, 8 to 14 months; Playstead fields, 4 months; and the William J. Devine Golf Course, about 18 months.
The FPC board said it has talked privately with Boston 2024 and received several promises, while also finding many questions could not be answered.
“FPC appreciates the dialogue and progress that has been made toward addressing questions and concerns about the 2024 bid,” the FPC board statement says. “That said, the Olympics stand to benefit powerful people and entities with little or no connection to the park or the surrounding community. Major sporting events in other cities have left negative legacies of financial disaster and vacant facilities years afterwards. FPC needs concrete assurances that this will not be Franklin Park’s fate given the history of chronic underinvestment and misuse.”
Promises Boston 2024 has made, according to FPC, include: no removal of or damage to park trees; no new parking lots or pavement; no permanent structures without community approval; no swimming pool; any White Stadium expansion would be within its existing footprint; and “insurance bonds to ensure full restoration [of the park] to equal (or better) condition.”
On the other hand, the FPC statement said, “Questions about neighborhood impact, a viable transportation plan, the Games’ security, and a more specific restoration outline were among those Boston 2024 cannot answer at this point.”
FPC membership must have a “key voice” in the decision-making, and remains neutral while “outstanding questions” remain, the statement says.