GOVERNOR BAKER should freeze a plan to lease Daly Field in Brighton to Simmons College, a flawed idea that hasn’t gotten much better since it was first proposed in 2012. Under the deal, Simmons would agree to improve and maintain the state-owned land next to the Charles River, in exchange for exclusive use for its athletic teams during certain months and times of day. Under the 20-year agreement, Brighton High School’s football team and the Allston-Brighton Little League would also get slots to use the field.
Those benefits are substantial, and Simmons deserves credit for engaging with the community and improving the plan, which now includes 10 parking spaces. But the proposal still cuts too many of the state’s residents out of the picture. For anyone without a child in youth sports or a daughter at Simmons, the overall result of the deal would be to reduce the amount of time an existing public park is available for the public’s use.
Considering the immense repair backlog at state parks, and Brighton High School’s longstanding need for a football field, it’s easy to understand why local officials leapt at Simmons’ offer. Making deals with private operators on state land is not, in itself, inherently bad, and can be a way to make investments in parks that the state can’t afford itself. But the state should still seek out the best deal on behalf of all taxpayers. As environmental groups opposed to the deal have pointed out, the state has not even put a dollar figure on the land’s value, which makes it next to impossible to evaluate whether the state is getting the best terms possible.
Baker, who came into office promising a data-driven approach to state government, should call a timeout until the state can at least offer critics those numbers. There’s no doubt that what Simmons has offered would be an upgrade at Daly Field, and a boon to local youth sports. But it comes at a steep price, and Baker shouldn’t approve the lease unless he concludes there’s no other way to get the improvements.