Rack up another $2 million for the teenage sleuths at the Hyde Square Task Force who have been helping raise funds for the Jackson Square Recreation Center.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said his administration will contribute $2 million to the nonprofit developer, Urban Edge, to help with its $30 million goal to build the community center in one of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods. The extra city funds, officials said, were received in August via renegotiating a city property lease.
“It’s all public money, going into a public purpose … it’s a good thing,” Walsh said, after meeting with Urban Edge officials and teenagers from the neighborhood. “The opportunities that come out of having this center built for young people, for generations to come, is important.”
Earlier this year, teenagers with the Hyde Square Task Force, who had been helping to raise funds for Urban Edge, discovered that operators of the TD Garden arena had failed to meet a requirement that they host yearly fund-raisers for community recreation centers, such as ice skating rinks — for more than two decades. The requirement was tucked into the 1993 law that authorized construction of the sports arena, which houses the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics.
As a result of the discovery, TD Garden and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation paid an additional $2.6 million to the Jackson Square project.
But the teenagers, from Roxbury and Jamaica Plan, still denounced the settlement, saying it fell far short of the $10 million they calculated TD Garden could have raised had it held the fund-raisers all along. They argued for $13 million, saying the arena should have to also pay penalties and interest.
They also marched to the State House and City Hall in August, demanding that Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker get more involved in pressuring TD Garden to pay more, as well as raising funds in general.
Urban Edge has so far raised $18.7 million in funds, including the city’s contribution and the payments from the state and TD Garden. The organization is still awaiting responses to another $5.1 million in requests for funding from other sources, leaving the group with at least $6.8 million still to raise.
Celina Miranda, executive director of the Hyde Square Task Force, said the teenagers recently met with representatives from TD Garden, the attorney general’s office, and Urban Edge, where they continued to push for TD Garden to commit more funding. They expect to meet again soon, she said. But she welcomed news of Boston’s commitment, saying “there was always the hope the city of Boston would also step in.”
“We are delighted to see that happen and know the voice of our youth has been prominent, and prevalent, and rallied folks to come together to figure out what they can do to make sure the recreation center is built,” she said. “We are extremely proud of the work our young people have spearheaded around this effort.”
Walsh, who is seeking reelection on Nov. 7, said Friday that the city has been searching for ways to help fund the Recreation Center for the past two years, but has been hamstrung by grant restrictions that limit certain city donations to private entities, even if they are building a community project. The $2 million from the lease negotiations does not have those restrictions, he said.
“There’s an opportunity here, you always look at it,” the mayor said, noting he joined Urban Edge and community officials, as well as several professional athletes such as Olympic soccer star Kristine Lilly, at the fund-raising launch in March 2016. “This is something we’ve been trying to figure out, how to make this happen.”
The recreation center would be two stories high, with an ice rink and artificial turf, as well as space for educational programs. It would serve some of Boston’s poorest and most at-risk students: There are 26,000 youth ages 5 to 18 who live within a mile and a half of Jackson Square.
Katie Provencher, deputy director of Urban Edge, said the center would become the “corner stone” of work by the city, her organization and other groups such as the Jamaica Plain Community Development Center to rebuild Jackson Square.
“It’s amazing to see buildings completed, and plans for new ones,” she said.
Ayan Ahmed, 17, a student at the Jeremiah Burke School, and Oriana Heredia, 16, who attends Academy of the Pacific Rim, told Walsh during a meeting at City Hall on Friday that the center would provide a much-needed gathering spot for local youth, with state-of-the art sports facilities. The neighborhood has a temporary skating rink, but it has not had a full-fledged skating center since the state closed down two in the early 1990s.
“It would be cool just to go ice skating, do something local,” said Ahmed. “I just think it will be a nice thing to have it, it will tie the community together.”
They also joked that, perhaps, they could get a job when the center opened.