In choosing the spot for his inauguration as Boston’s new mayor, Martin J. Walsh veered off the course trod by his recent predecessors.
By about 7 miles.
The mayor-elect of Boston will be inaugurated Jan. 6 in one of the farthest corners of the city. Boston College’s Conte Forum so narrowly skirts the city limits that its address is actually listed as Chestnut Hill. A stone boundary marker delineates the spot where Boston ends and Newton begins — 27 paces from the arena’s side exit.
But make no mistake: The arena is in Boston, even if barely.
“Conte Forum is in Boston. They received all their licensing and permitting in Boston,” said Walsh press secretary Kate Norton. “The mayor-elect would not be sworn in outside of Boston.”
Even though Walsh is relocating the event to a remote edge of the city, he is doing so in the hope of drawing more supporters. Norton noted that some 6,000 people volunteered for Walsh’s campaign on Election Day, and not even a third of them could witness the inauguration if it were held in Faneuil Hall or the Citi Performing Arts Center — two venues that often hosted inaugural ceremonies in years past.
“It’s about making sure that we can allow different people to be part of it,” Walsh recently told the Globe. “The civic engagement is, to me, the most important of it all.”
Walsh’s inaugural committee considered alternative venues, but the decision was driven by access and cost, Norton said.
The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center was both booked and cost prohibitive. Conte Forum, the home of the Boston College Eagles, was attractive for its proximity to public transportation, availability of parking, and its capacity — about 8,600 seats. It also has symbolic import as Walsh’s alma mater. The mayor-elect earned his college degree in 2009 by attending classes at night while a state representative.
“He talked a lot on the campaign trail about pathways to education, pathways to career, and he’s very proud that he was able to finish his degree,” Norton said Friday. “He has a special tie to BC that way.”
Conte Forum is named for the late Silvio O. Conte, a Boston College alumnus and Republican congressman.
The arena has hosted other politically oriented events, including an economic summit featuring Alan Greenspan, then the Federal Reserve chairman, and then-US Representative Edward J. Markey in 2000. Senator John McCain addressed first-year students in 2006 and then-Senator Barack Obama held court in 2005.
Neither Norton nor BC spokesman Jack Dunn could quote the price that Walsh’s inaugural committee will pay to use the facilities. Norton said the final cost, which will include services provided by Boston College, is still being worked out.
The swearing-in will follow days of inauguration exercises, including volunteer service. On the night of Jan. 6, the new mayor plans an inauguration celebration at Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center.
Walsh’s westward move marks a departure from inaugural tradition. The last mayor to stray from downtown was Kevin H. White, who held his fourth and last inauguration in 1980 at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester. Mayors Raymond Flynn and Thomas M. Menino typically held their events downtown, even though they both strongly identified with the neighborhoods.
“The mayor made his decision based on what was convenient for him and his family and for the people that support him,” said Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce.
Conte Forum has its conveniences, though the Boston College station is the very last stop on the Green Line’s B branch. Shuttles will ferry passengers from that stop and the nearby Reservoir T station, Dunn said.
Just leave plenty of time to reach the 10 a.m. inauguration event.
“Don’t think you can hop on the subway at 9:30 and make it on time,” said Lawrence S. DiCara, a former city councilor, cautioned people coming from Walsh’s Dorchester neighborhood. “It’s an hour — if everything works.”