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Emerald Necklace Conservancy and Citizens Suing to Stop Proposed Development of White Stadium

The Emerald Necklace Conservancy and 15 plaintiffs are suing to stop what they say is “the unconstitutional privatization of public land” to rehabilitate Franklin Park’s White Stadium so it can be the home field for a women’s professional soccer team.

Rendering of proposed renovations to Franklin Park’s White Stadium.

The plaintiffs are suing the city, the trustees of the George Robert White Fund, and Boston Unity Soccer Partners.

The lawsuit alleges that the proposed redevelopment of White Stadium by Boston Unity
Soccer Partners, a private for-profit investment group, “would not only violate the White
Fund Trust and [the Public Land and Protection Act, Article 97, of the Massachusetts
constitution] by transferring public trust land to private use and excluding members of the public from the Project Site, including some Boston Public School sports teams who currently use White Fund Stadium, it would fundamentally alter the nature and feel of a significant portion of Franklin Park during the majority of fair weather weekends each year,” according to a press release.

The lawsuit contends the defendants are proposing to privatize White Stadium and 1.5 acres of surrounding public parkland in Franklin Park. They contend the plan would displace Boston Public Schools student-athletes and the local community from White Stadium and Franklin Park. But the city has said the stadium’s revitalization would actually make it the “centerpiece of Boston Public Schools athletics.”

The lawsuit states there is an “absence of a realistic transportation plan for 20 annual game days” and that there has been a “lack of adequate community input throughout an incredibly fast-moving redevelopment process.”

“Franklin Park, as it was originally designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead over a century ago, is for the people who live here. It’s not for any private group to profit from; it’s for the public’s free use,” said plaintiff Jean McGuire of Roxbury, a former executive director of METCO and a community activist who lives four blocks from Franklin Park. “All of us in Boston and the suburbs who use the park want it left pristine. We want it left the way we designed it — for the people.”

Karen Mauney-Brodek, president of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, said the organization strongly supports the renovation of White Stadium, but doesn’t support the involvement of a pro sports team, which they feel would displace the local community for the next 30 years and private and profit from a “treasured public resource.”

“Rather than turn over White Stadium to a private group of investors, we should
focus on improving the stadium, and the rest of Franklin Park, with the $50 million in public funds the city has already identified. Changes to White Stadium should be designed to benefit BPS student-athletes and the public – not to meet the specific needs of profit-driven sports investors,” said Mauney-Brodek.

The lawsuit seeks to prevent the proposed project to continue “because it violates the purpose of the White Fund Trust, which requires White Stadium to be reserved for public use.”

During a press conference on Wednesday, several plaintiffs discussed their concerns with the proposal.

“Hundreds of members of the community spent years developing the Franklin Park Action Plan, which never considered handing White Stadium over to a private developer and displacing the community. But under this proposal, the Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Mattapan community will be unable to access the most-used public portion of Franklin Park during most weekends from April through October,” said plaintiff Melissa Hamel, a Jamaica Plain resident. “And while the taxpayers of Boston provide the majority of the funding for the project, the community’s needs would take a back seat to a professional sports team schedule. This private project is being rushed through an accelerated approval process without any consideration for what’s legal, what’s practical, or what the communities around Franklin Park support. We’re
bringing this lawsuit because something wrong is happening.”