A group of investors vying to secure a home for a new professional women’s soccer team for Boston have submitted a proposal for more than $30 million in renovations to city-owned George White Stadium in Franklin Park.
The Boston Unity Soccer Partners’ 115-page proposal presents a dramatic overhaul of not only the 74-year-old stadium, which is in disrepair, but also that of the parklands surrounding the structure.
Securing a stadium in time for the 2026 season that meets National Women’s Soccer League standards is the biggest hurdle remaining for the group of Boston-area owners, who were the sole respondents, according to the city, to a request for development proposals earlier this year.
Under the plans by the women-led investor group, the team would use the stadium for approximately 20 days a year between March and October. The remainder of the calendar would be devoted to Boston Public Schools’ sporting events inside the stadium as well as public and private use of a new, 62,500-square-foot event space called The Grove on the south end of the stadium.
In the proposal’s cover letter, Boston Unity’s controlling manager Jennifer Epstein, emphasized the owners’ commitment to a public-private venture that has few, if any, comparisons in professional American sports.
“We are dedicated to partnering with members of the surrounding communities to collaboratively drive wide-ranging and long-lasting benefits back into these communities,” Epstein wrote. “Boston has an unparalleled legacy of championship teams and a passionate fan base that accepts and deserves excellence.
“Our mission is to field a championship-caliber soccer club, provide an elite fan experience in a historic stadium with an inclusive environment that reflects the diversity of our region and the world’s most popular sport, and operate a franchise that is deeply rooted in the fabric and success of Boston and our communities’ culture,” she added.
The soccer group’s proposal is for the West grandstand renovation, “The Grove” development, and the roofs over each grandstand.
The city has yet to announce its financial commitment to the project, although it is expected to be responsible for the East grandstand and constructing new offices for the BPS athletics department that includes fitness areas behind the grandstand.
Mayor Michelle Wu and school officials planned to participate in a walk-through of the stadium Wednesday and a community meeting on Thursday. “We look forward to Thursday’s community meeting as an opportunity to share our vision for a revitalized and reimagined White Stadium as a state-of-the-art center for BPS Athletics, present an opportunity for partnership to advance the city’s goals, and gather community feedback,” a spokesman for the mayor said Tuesday.
Designs for the roofs, which may feature solar panels, and “The Grove” have not been finalized. But the investment group aspires for the design to be “respectful and responsive to the organic, curvilinear shapes of the original grandstands and walls, without copying them.”
The design concepts will be “based on the form of leaves, inspired by Franklin Park and Frederick Law Olmsted, where each design element is specific to this special place.” Olmsted, the famed landscape architect, designed Franklin Park in the late 19th century as the crown jewel of his Emerald Necklace.
One rendering in the proposal is for an elevated walkway emerging from the forest canopy behind the West Grandstand and The Grove.
For soccer game days, the group hopes to add retractable seating to the north end of the stadium that would increase capacity to 11,000.
When there are no soccer games, those seats and front rows of each grandstand could be retracted to allow for a refurbished running track expanded to eight lanes. The playing surface for the soccer and football fields would be natural grass with a new irrigation system.
The Grove area is intended to provide a festival-like space for food and beverages, and hangout and play zone space on game days.
Parking and transportation are a major concern for the stadium, which lies near the densely populated Roxbury and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods. The proposal estimates 10 percent of soccer fans will either walk or bike to games, 40 percent will use public transportation, with the remaining half using their own cars or ride-share vehicles.
The proposal seeks to provide shuttle buses from the Green Street and Forest Hills stops on the Orange Line and to provide shuttle buses from satellite parking lots.
The expectation is that 1,280 parking spots will be needed for game days. The bidders said parking plans would not encroach on current zoo and golf parking in the park, but that it hopes on-street, in-park parking options could be added.
The investors’ plan hopes to sign at least half of the building contracts from businesses in the community surrounding Franklin Park.
The development schedule shows that after community input is collected and the concept and construction elements are finalized, early site construction would begin by April 2024 . By March 2026, construction would be completed in time for the start of the NWSL season.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.