If Boston gets the 2024 Olympics, backers say they would fulfill part of their goal of making permanent improvements to venues by leaving behind a new swimming pool in Franklin Park after the end of the modern pentathlon planned for the park.
The pool would go next to White Stadium, which would undergo a major renovation as a venue for both the pentathlon - whose athletes compete in five separate sports - and for equestrian events.
But at a packed meeting called by the Franklin Park Coalition and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy at the golf-course clubhouse tonight, skeptical residents questioned who would maintain the pool in a park that already has a major backlog of issues, or even if a park designed as bucolic slice of the country in the middle of the city really needs another concrete structure to go with all the other structures that have eroded Olmsted's original vision over the decades.
No problem, Boston 2024 CEO Richard Davey replied: If residents really object to a permanent pool, organizers could put in a temporary one - and figure out another way to improve the park.
Some residents objected to the idea of a bunch of rich people on horseback effectively barring park neighbors and other Boston residents from the park and questioned whether equestrian events could be simply held some place else.
Davey acknowledged the initial plan approved by the US Olympic Committee was really a "proof of concept" more than a concrete final plan and that Boston 2024 is already considering venue changes - he noted similar opposition to a beach-volleyball stadium on the Common.
Davey and architect David Manfredi discussed in broad terms how they saw Franklin Park fitting into the Olympic dream: White Stadium would get an overall redo that would include temporarily increasing its capacity to 20,000 seats, while grassy, non-fairway parts of the golf course would be turned into a course for equestrian races.
Manfredi said the stadium and the fields around it might have to be closed off to the public for up to a year to allow for construction. In contrast, the golf course would only have to be shut for about a month, he said.
When one resident asked about the potential traffic impact on Blue Hill Avenue, Davey got the biggest laugh of the night when he said organizers will be trying to convince Olympic participants and spectators to take the T.
Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who lives near the park, said she's concerned about displacement of poor residents living near venues; in fact, she said she's currently working on a master's thesis on the topic of displacement in Olympic host cities. She said both London and Beijing moved large numbers of residents to make way for their games and that in Atlants, 30,000 people were forced to move. "What we get [from the Olympics], hopefully, is we get to stay in our homes."
She added she's also concerned about ensuring local minority- and women-owned businesses get a fair shot at Olympics business.
Davey said residents should take heart that even if Boston doesn't get the 2024 games, the current planning will leave Boston a better place because that planning involves a deep look at what residents want their city to be in 20 or 30 years. One resident retorted that "feels a little bit like extortion" - as if residents cannot expect any improvements at all in the city unless the Olympics are forced down their throats.
Davey said he has taken no position either for or against City Councilor Josh Zakim's proposal for four referendum questions on the Olympics. However, he said that just based on the discussion tonight, the issues are "a lot more complicated than yes/no."
Although many in the room opposed the Olympics bid in general and the Franklin Park idea specifically, a number said they either had yet to make up their minds or supported the idea. One man said that as a White Stadium neighbor and former figure skater, he can't wait to see Olympics events there - and the improvements to the park that would come afterward.
Among those in attendance: Former Gov. Deval Patrick, who did not, however, speak.