Teen sleuths say TD Garden owes $13.8 million in fund-raisers
The group of teenagers who exposed TD Garden’s failure to comply with a 1993 state mandate to raise funds for city recreation centers has calculated the organization’s obligation — and it’s a whopping figure.
The teens say that amount would help pay for a new ice skating rink in their neighborhood. They held a press conference Wednesday to make their case and take credit for their sleuthing.
“Since when is ignorance of the law an excuse not to follow the law?” asked Lorrie Pearson, 17, a member of the Hyde Square Task Force, surrounded by dozens of teens and mentors at the press conference in Jamaica Plain.
She added, “We as teens have not been respected . . . we feel that we are doing the state of Massachusetts a huge favor, but we are being treated as third-class citizens by TD Garden and state representatives.”
The demand for payment came two weeks after TD Garden representatives acknowledged that they have not honored a 1993 law mandating they hold three fund-raisers a year to benefit what is now the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation. The teens discovered the law as they were researching ways to fund a recreational center near Jackson Square that would include the neighborhood’s first ice rink in decades.
The students landed on the $13.8 million figure by calculating that TD Garden could raise $150,000 at three fund-raising events a year over 24 years, and counted late fees, penalties, fines, and interest. They called the figure a conservative estimate considering the star power the arena could draw.
Tricia McCorkle, a spokeswoman for TD Garden, made no promises to pay up.
“We appreciate and applaud the efforts of Hyde Square Task Force youth leaders to fight for their community. Since the uncovering of this legislation by these youth leaders, we have been working directly with DCR to correct the oversight,” McCorkle said in a statement.
She added, “TD Garden and DCR are committed to working together to develop a much clearer sense of everyone’s obligations moving forward and a resolution on the matter with realistic and relevant information.”
Officials from the DCR and Governor Charlie Baker’s office met with the teenagers after the press conference later Wednesday afternoon. Troy Wall, a spokesman for the DCR, said in a statement that officials wanted to “thank them for their efforts identifying the 1993 legislation that enables charity events at TD Garden for state recreational facilities.”
Troy said officials “will continue to work with [TD Garden] to identify a resolution that satisfies the legislative requirement,” though he did not say how much officials are demanding, or how that money should be spent.
The students said later that they will maintain their demand that TD Garden pay $13.8 million in obligations and that the money be used to fund the completion of the recreation center.
The mandate for fund-raisers was part of the 1993 law that authorized the construction of a new sports arena to replace Boston Garden. Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins and chairman of Delaware North, the corporation that owns the new Garden, had preferred the fund-raising requirement over another option from state lawmakers — a one time payment of $3.5 million to benefit city recreation centers.
But since the law was passed, no fund-raisers have been held —
The project is being developed by a nonprofit community developer, Urban Edge. State officials have previously committed $5.6 million to the project on the condition that Urban Edge raise the remaining amount on its own.
Now, the teenagers are demanding that TD Garden pay a lump sum to the DCR to compensate for the lack of fund-raising events. The teens want some of those funds to be used to complete the new recreation center, saying their neighborhood has gone without an ice rink for area youth for more than two decades, when two state rinks were closed because of disrepair.
“We’ve gone the entirety of our lives without a recreation center, and that’s ridiculous,” said Edelind Peguero, 16, of Roxbury. She said the ice rink would serve a neighborhood that has 26,000 black and Latino youth within a mile and a half, and she questioned whether other, predominantly white communities would go so long without a recreation center.
“We were robbed of our opportunity to become experts at ice skating, and now we don’t want the younger generation to be affected like we were,” she said.
Under the 1993 law, the proceeds from the annual fund-raisers must benefit DCR for the use and maintenance of recreation facilities in Boston. It is not clear whether any funds from TD Garden can be used to develop the Jackson Square recreation center, because it is being developed by Urban Edge, and not the state.
But the Hyde Square teenagers argue that the state can find ways to fully fund the Urban Edge center, because the state closed the area’s only two ice skating rinks and has failed to replace them.
“So that the injustice and racial inequity of the past can be addressed,” Peguero said.
The students also took issue with state and TD Garden officials’ refusal to meet with them when they first inquired about the law, and they only responded after the students gathered information by filing a public records request, citing state and federal open records laws.
Pearson also said that DCR Commissioner Leo Roy responded to requests for a meeting only after they had scheduled the press conference.
State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, who represents the neighborhood and was just promoted to Massachusetts House budget chief, attended Wednesday’s press conference and called on officials to answer to the neighborhood’s demand for a new recreation center.
“I’m proud to stand with them in this endeavor to bring more attention to this rink, because it’s so important,” he said. “This community is just asking, ‘come to the table.’ ”
An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the terms of the legislature’s alternative to the fund-raising requirement. The option was a one-time $3.5 million payment.