The Boston business leaders working to raise the $75 million they will need to finance a bid for the 2024 Summer Games face an obstacle that could complicate their efforts: a geographic boundary drawn at the New York state line.
As part of an agreement between the Boston 2024 Partnership and the US Olympic Committee, the Boston group has agreed not to proactively seek donors outside of New England, while the USOC will stay out of the region as it hunts for contributors to its cause.
Right now, the USOC has its own fund-raising priority: supporting the country’s athletes and related sports programs. That differs from Boston 2024’s mission, which is to bring the Olympics here.
There is some flexibility with this geographic border. It does not mean corporate donors outside of New England cannot contribute to Boston 2024. But those big gifts will need to be run by the US committee.
USOC officials said that similar “collaborative arrangements” were in place for New York’s failed bid for the 2012 Summer Games, and for Chicago’s 2016 bid. They said geographic guidelines for Boston’s effort will be spelled out in writing, but the details are still being refined by the two groups. Boston 2024 Partnership chairman John Fish said he expects part of Connecticut to be carved out of Boston 2024’s territory.
“Obviously, the USOC doesn’t want the Boston bid committee to cannibalize their donors,” said Victor Matheson, an economist at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. “[But] I don’t think limiting the source of the funds to New England has a particularly large impact on Boston 2024 to put forward a bid. At this point in the bidding process, I would think most of the interested donors would be local, anyway.”
Fish said it makes sense for his group to keep its focus on its home turf.
“People in our backyard are going to be the most passionate about this and probably the ones that are most supportive,” Fish said. “The people in New England are the ones that are going to benefit the most from the Games.”
USOC officials do not expect any tension. Spokesman Patrick Sandusky said the group plans to collaborate with Boston 2024, in part by offering staff time, to ensure a strong bid.
But it is up to the local partnership to raise enough money to support its pitch. If the International Olympic Committee chooses Boston to host the 2024 Summer Games, then Boston 2024 and the USOC will form a joint venture that will handle corporate sponsorships for the event.
Since taking over the USOC in 2010, Scott Blackmun has put an increased emphasis on raising money to help cover his group’s expenses. That strategy is starting to pay off.
In 2013, its $48.5 million in donation revenue represented nearly one-quarter of the USOC’s $196 million budget, compared with $36.5 million in 2011. (Corporate sponsorships remain the biggest source of revenue in years when the Games are not held, while broadcast revenue is the biggest source during Games years.)
Boston 2024 fund-raising committee members huddled last week at the partnership’s Seaport headquarters to kick-start the $75 million campaign needed to cover its costs through 2017.
To do that, the group’s leaders are trying to bring additional prominent Boston-area leaders
The fund-raising efforts will continue to be led by Steve Pagliuca, who works with Paul Edgerley at private equity firm Bain Capital, where both are managing directors. Pagliuca said the $75 million will go to a range of expenses to carry the group through the IOC’s final vote in September 2017 —
New England, in Pagliuca’s mind, represents fertile fund-raising territory, with at least 25 Fortune 500 companies based here, primarily in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Of the $11 million raised in 2014, the partnership’s first year, about one-third consisted of in-kind donations: legal services, marketing support, and the like.
Fish said he expects to continue to rely on donated services for the next phase, but only for about 20 percent of the $75 million.
Davey said he expects more business leaders will contribute now that they see that a Boston-based 2024 Summer Games could be a reality. To help, Davey plans to play up the potential marketing opportunities.
“Given that we have so much more notoriety and more than two and a half years as a lead up to the IOC vote, there’s a longer opportunity to get involved and potentially see your brand marketed,” Davey said.
Pagliuca said he hopes to emphasize to donors how the Games can catalyze other initiatives for Boston: the transportation projects that will be turbo-charged, the housing that could be built.
But Fish and his colleagues are also going to have hit the road to attract supporters from outside Boston’s well-heeled corporate community.
Last month, Fish made his pitch to the South Shore Chamber of Commerce. He met with the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday and will talk to the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce in May.
Newton-Needham chamber president Greg Reibman said business leaders in his region hope to benefit from the economic ripple effects if the Games are based in Boston. But they are also concerned that key local transportation proposals — such as a new Green Line spur or renovations to the Needham Street-Highland Avenue corridor — could get delayed.
“There are a lot more questions than answers at this point,” Reibman said.
Rob Mellion, the president of Fall River’s chamber, said he has already offered his support to Boston 2024. A former competitive rower, Mellion is eager to persuade Olympic backers to relocate the rowing events from the Merrimack River to Fall River’s South Watuppa Pond. He also sees Buzzards Bay as a better candidate for sailing races than Boston Harbor.
But the South Coast area, in Mellion’s view, can be much more than just a secondary venue location. Deep-water ports can be used to ship goods to the Games. Local food manufacturers can supply athletes, workers, and volunteers.
Before South Coast companies write checks, they will need more evidence that the region will share in the Olympics’ wealth. That question, Mellion said, was on the minds of the nearly 250 business leaders who came to see Fish talk on Thursday. Many, he said, left excited.
Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.