TD Garden and the state have agreed to pay $2.65 million toward a recreational center in Jackson Square, a deal that falls far short of the millions of dollars that a group of teens says the Garden was obligated to kick in through yearly fund-raisers over the last two decades.
The deal was unveiled Thursday after days of negotiations, but the teenagers quickly denounced the outcome. They had discovered last month that the venue failed to live up to an obligation to hold annual fund-raisers for state recreational centers.
The teens calculated last week that TD Garden owed the state $13.8 million, saying the Garden and the athletes who play there could have helped raised the money.
Under the deal announced Thursday, TD Garden has agreed to pay $1.65 million to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. The money, state officials said, will go directly to the construction of the recreational center in Jamaica Plain’s Jackson Square that the teenagers had been fund-raising for when they uncovered the oversight.
And the state agreed to chip in another $1 million – in addition to the $5.6 million state officials have already set aside for the project – under the accord officials reached with TD Garden.
“We have worked diligently with the DCR and state officials on a fair and equitable approach to this issue,” Amy Latimer, president of TD Garden, said in a statement.
Troy Wall, a spokesman for DCR, said in a statement that while the money must lawfully go to state coffers first, “We are thrilled to agree to direct this funding to the Jackson Square project in recognition of the students’ hard work.”
TD Garden and state officials say they are still discussing how the venue can fulfill its requirements under the state law going forward, and whether that would include holding charity events or supporting state facilities in other ways. But, they say, they wanted to immediately announce the deal they say makes up for the past two decades.
“We’re going to live up to our obligations, there’s no question we’re going to continue to do the right thing, we just have to figure out what that looks like,” Latimer said in an interview.
The teenagers staged a protest at TD Garden that had already been planned for Thursday to call on the parties to reach an agreement.
“We need the money, and you need to keep up to your promise,” said Edelind Peguero, 17, one of the teenagers who discovered the oversight.
Dozens of teenagers and their advisers attended the rally and held signs in protest of Jeremy Jacobs, the TD Garden owner. They shouted, “Jeremy Jacobs you can’t hide, we’ve got justice on our side.” The group later met with lawyers from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice to see if they have any legal recourse to challenge the deal, though they did not provide details of the discussion.
The students were particularly frustrated that state and TD Garden officials have refused to meet with them since May, when they first began researching the 1993 law that mandated that TD Garden hold the fund-raisers, while they were looking for ways to raise funds for the recreational center in Jackson Square.
The project is being built by a nonprofit community developer, Urban Edge, which is required to raise money to pay for it, even though the ice rink would replace two in the area that were closed by the state in the early 1990s. The neighborhood is home to some of Boston’s poorest and most at-risk youth.
Urban Edge had raised $14 million, including the state’s past commitment, for the roughly $30 million project. Thursday’s agreement would raise that to $16.65 million, and Urban Edge hopes to raise the balance soon so construction could begin next year.
The students say DCR Commissioner Leo Roy only agreed to meet with them last week, after they had already exposed TD Garden’s oversight. They learned of Thursday’s agreement just moments before their planned protest at TD Garden, which was covered by the media.
“Why is it taking so long for us to get any clear information?” asked Lorrie Pearson, one of the students at the Hyde Square Task Force, a community center in Jamaica Plain that has been supporting Urban Edge’s fund-raising efforts. “Why did everyone in state government and TD Garden ignore us until the media got involved?”
The students presented a letter that was signed by their City Council and state legislative delegation and addressed to Jacobs, the owner of the Boston Bruins and chairman of Delaware North, which owns TD Garden. The letter, dated Thursday but signed before the agreement was announced, called on Jacobs to meet with the students “to establish a plan of action to fulfill the Garden’s commitment to strengthening our state’s recreational facility capacity.”
Latimer, the TD Garden president, said in an interview later Thursday that she hopes to meet the students soon, and she reached out to their adviser. The students said they were discussing setting up the meeting.
Latimer said TD Garden officials wanted to work with the state to finalize terms of an agreement that would recognize the past-due obligations, but that the effort took longer than expected.
She said, for instance, officials had to discuss ways to give the money to DCR while also ensuring the money directly benefits the Jackson Square recreation center.
“It was understanding this legislation, what it meant, and trying to come up with the right solution going back,” said Latimer, who did not hold her position when the 1993 law was passed. “It took a lot longer than I think we expected.”
Officials said the retroactive sum was calculated based on what TD Garden raises in other community-style fund-raisers, particularly the three it holds each year for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. Thse venue raises $25,000 in net proceeds each year from those three events. Adding up that amount for 22 years — when TD Garden was first opened – would equal $550,000. Latimer said TD Garden decided to triple that amount.
She said she hopes to explain the process and the behind-the-scenes discussions to the students to help them understand why it took longer to reach a deal. But she also said she hopes to talk to the students about the status of the fund-raising effort for the Jackson Square recreational center, and other ways TD Garden may help.
“We wanted a resolution, we have it now,” she said, adding, “maybe there are some other ways to help with fund-raising. We’re trying to figure that out.”