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Residents voice concern over White Stadium proposal

Tanisha Bhat
Residents voice concern over White Stadium proposal
Rendering of the proposed renovation of White Stadium.

Residents in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury envision a revitalized White Stadium that is a hub for city student-athletes, a haven for neighbors and an axis for ample jobs for people in communities nearby.

Their hopes were shared during a virtual meeting July 13 on reimagining the 78-year-old city-owned stadium shortly after the city announced that a group of investors is proposing to transform the stadium into the home of a new professional women’s soccer team.

The residents’ hopes for White Stadium were mixed with trepidation, as some expressed fears about the potential for commuting gridlock, disruption to the environment, and lack of access for Boston Public School students if the stadium, a neighborhood landmark, is upgraded for more prominent events.

Morgan McDaniel gives a presentation of proposed White Stadium renovations at a recent walk through of the Franklin Park facility. PHOTO: JEREMIAH ROBINSON, MAYOR’S OFFICE

“How are we going to keep it for BPS?’’ said Courtney Leonard, athletic director at TechBoston Academy. “Are we hiring Black and brown people? Is it going to stay 90% for our communities? I want to see more of a commitment for BPS schools and students for access that doesn’t come with a caveat.”

Boston Unity Soccer Partners recently proposed investing $30 million to fully renovate the stadium into the home of a National Women’s Soccer League team in time for its 2026 season. The stadium would host games for the professional team 20 days in the year, and BPS would use the facility for the remainder of the year for athletic events. 

A revitalized stadium, promising to pack in more than 10,000 people, would be outfitted with an eight-lane track, new grandstands, equipment, locker and training rooms, and offices for BPS athletics. It would also get a new concession area called “The Grove.”

“Our mission is to bring another championship team to our great cities and to provide an exciting fan experience in a historic stadium with an inclusive environment that reflects the diversity of our region and the world’s most popular sport,” said Jennifer Espstein, Boston Unity’s controlling manager.

Despite decades of disrepair and lack of renovations, the stadium is used throughout the year for sporting events, BPS graduations and other community events.

Mayor Michelle Wu, who attended last week’s virtual meeting, said the stadium is “in a state” that holds back what we can do” there.

“We can only use half of it really well,” said Wu, who also held a walking tour of the run-down facility last week. “We want to make sure that this will forever be an asset that is giving back to the community and most of all creates opportunity for our young people and our Boston Public School students.”

Officials at the meeting heard concerns about the stadium’s future from residents, including Michael Carpentier, a Roxbury resident who stressed “open,” “unfettered,” and “unstructured” access to the stadium.

“Access is important,” he said, “not just permitted access to the public.”

Other residents worried about parking nightmares, traffic jams, and other commuting woes that might arise if thousands of people pour in and out of the stadium for big-time events. 


Residents living close to the stadium said they are afraid people will park on their street and are demanding “resident only” parking along those areas.

“Unless there’s an ironclad execution plan for transportation for 20 weekends of every year, it will be just highly destructive of our quality of life.… So this is not a joke to us. It’s not theoretical,” said Walt Pollard, who lives near the stadium, during the meeting.

Officials are proposing an off-site pre-paid parking lot with shuttle buses to and from the stadium and extra MBTA buses to ease commuting difficulties, according to Bill Keravuori of the Able Co., a real estate development firm.

Jana Pickard-Richardson, who lives on an adjacent street, said at the meeting she was worried that an expansion would ruin the park’s original intended use.

“I’m very wary of another plan that would take away public space,” she said. “This is a park, it’s a green space. It’s a natural area. One way that people like to use a park is for peace and quiet or for communing with nature.”

Glynn Lloyd, a parent to two city school children, told the Banner his niece plays soccer for the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics, whose team frequently uses the stadium.

“It’s an overall positive,” he said of the stadium. “It’s an asset in our community that’s underutilized because of the shape it’s in. And now with both the city and potentially this private partner, we’re going to make it fully utilized and a better experience.”

Hatim Jean-Louis, the school system’s cross country and track and field head coach, told the Banner that while he understands the concerns of the community, what matters more is that BPS students are provided with updated facilities that give them a fair chance to compete.

“A new White Stadium would change the game,” he said. “With this new [proposed] facility, we are no longer underdogs. We will rival any school’s track in Massachusetts.… People need to be talking about the kids. Let’s hear what the kids want, not the adults.”