By Michael Coughlin Jr.
On Thursday, July 13, a virtual briefing and feedback session was held, which included presentations from both the city and a potential partner concerning the renovation of White Stadium. White Stadium, built in 1945 and run by Boston Public Schools (BPS), is going through a process to eventually get some much-needed upgrades. “A fire destroyed the interior of the east side several years ago, and although it was designed to seat 10,000 people, it doesn’t meet code that would allow that number of people, and it’s not accessible as well,” said Dion Irish, the Chief of Operations for the City of Boston. “The west grandstand, as I mentioned, as well as the east, is out of compliance with codes and lacks the spaces and amenities needed to be a citywide resource for BPS athletics,” he added. According to Irish, the vision is “to revitalize and rehabilitate White Stadium to be a centerpiece state-of-the-art athletic facility to make our students proud.” As the meeting progressed, Evan Brinkman, the Public Facilities Department’s Assistant Director for Design, presented a programming and feasibility study done in conjunction with BPS, which began last year, to collect and analyze the needs to revitalize the stadium. After reviewing some of the issues with the stadium today, Brinkman displayed some of the basic needs BPS has at the site. These needs include expanded staff office space, moving the athletic storage distribution to a lower level, and adding and improving locker rooms. Expanding the stadium’s track to eight lanes to be compliant with Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) regulations, track and field improvements, renovating and modernizing the press box, accessible seating, bathrooms, building system replacements as well as seating replacements, and other building repairs were also mentioned as needs. In addition to creating a needs list, a wish list was created that, according to Brinkman, would “elevate White Stadium to the level of other peer facilities intending to make it a hub for student athletics in Boston.” Items on this wish list included a strength and condition/sports medicine center, additional locker rooms, a 1,000-seat gym, a half-size indoor turf field, community event space, and student resource study space. Brinkman then went through ideas for the items on the needs and wish lists and even displayed some renders and a 3D design concept for the stadium’s renovation. Irish indicated that the city’s plans are conceptual at this point, but he said, “The city’s prepared to make a significant investment to achieve this vision.” While the city got a chance to present its vision for the stadium, it was not the only presentation of the night. The city is considering a partnership in its renovation plans by leasing out a portion of the stadium at the west grandstand and a grassy area just south of the stadium, precisely 14% of the parcel’s total area owned by BPS, and in April, released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to get a potential partner. “We believe that a creative partnership that does not detract but enhances BPS’ athletics program would help to make the most ambitious vision a reality,” said Irish. According to the city’s website, it received one response to the RFP from Boston Unity Soccer Partners (BUSP), an all-female ownership group, who presented its vision for the potentially leased portion of White Stadium at the meeting. As part of BUSP’s vision, it would renovate the west grandstand and create a new convening space in the area south of the stadium called the grove. BUSP is even proposing to add a roof canopy to the stadium, a state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard, and improve lighting. Moreover, White Stadium would become home to Boston’s very own professional women’s soccer team. “The National Women’s Soccer League is the fastest-growing sports league in the country. They will be expanding to 14 teams in the 2024 season across the United States,” said Jennifer Epstein of BUSP. “It is a league that includes the top talent in the world in the sport, and we’re excited to bring this world-class talent to Boston ready to play in 2026,” she added. As part of this proposal, the new team would play at White Stadium over about 20 days between March and November, mainly on the weekends. On non-gamedays, the team might hold one practice during the week of a home game. “The remainder of the calendar will be filled with BPS and community events as it is today, except that the facility would be greatly improved by the renovation and the addition of the extra amenities, which will allow for new activation opportunities,” said Epstein. “Boston Public Schools will have access to a marquee professional stadium — how remarkable is that — with new restrooms, water bottle filling stations, and a refurbished track and field with Boston Unity responsible for the field maintenance,” she added. BUSP’s presentation touched on several parts of its plans that would augment the city’s vision for the stadium. Aspects discussed included design principles and concepts, and ideas for the stadium’s potential roof, its facade, lighting, and variations of the grove. It also spoke about transportation planning for gamedays and the activation of Franklin Park. Additionally, the presentation outlined potential economic and community benefits to be had from the partnership as well as diversity and inclusion initiatives. “We want to make sports more accessible, to work with the City of Boston to give our student-athletes at the Boston Public Schools a professional-level stadium to play in,” said Epstein. Later in the meeting, it was opened up to questions that touched on numerous topics, such as plans for transportation, noise, public access, community engagement, and more, as well as comments from the community. The questions posed during this meeting and their answers were compiled into a document that can be found at https://www.boston.gov/education/white-stadium. The link also has tons of other information, such as renderings of the proposed renovation of White Stadium, frequently asked questions and the slide show from the meeting. Further, you can visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI40h-EN_JE&ab_channel=BostonCityTV if you would like to see the meeting in its entirety. It should be noted that the aforementioned city webpage concerning the renovation indicates that the city is in the programming phase of the project. “We will have, of course, many more conversations about this — this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Brianna Millor, the city’s Chief of Community Engagement.