Somerville Mayor: Boston 2024’s Velodrome Proposal ‘Won’t Cut It’
Mayor Joe Curtatone considers himself an advocate of bringing Somerville into the mix if the 2024 Olympics come to Boston. But he refuses to allow backers pushing for the sporting event to use his backyard as a place for massive Olympic structures with no “long-term benefits” for the city.
When Boston 2024, the privately funded group working with the United States Olympic Committee to secure a bid to host the games in Massachusetts, released details of their proposed plans on Wednesday, they included erecting a permanent Velodrome, used for events like biking and track, and building a BMX course adjacent to Assembly Square, a new mixed-use development near the Mystic River.
“Representatives of the Commonwealth and the city of Somerville are supportive of the 2024 Olympic effort and the use of land currently controlled by public agencies,” Boston 2024 said of their proof-of-concept proposal.
Billed as an “urban neighborhood” with a brand-new Orange Line stop, retail shops, and apartment complexes, Assembly Square sits along expansive waterfront property, which Boston 2024 supporters think would make a great location for the Velodrome. Boston 2024 envisions the permanent building being repurposed as a “multi-use commercial venture,” open to the public, once the three-week sporting event leaves the area.
But using the land for a Velodrome that could seat 5,000 spectators doesn’t sit well with Curtatone’s vision for the city’s future.
“Planning for the Olympics must dovetail with community-building initiatives, and simply identifying locations for venues like a Velodrome, which brings no long-term benefits to the community, won’t cut it,” he said in a statement sent to Boston late Wednesday night, just hours after the plans were made public.
Referencing a recent op-ed he wrote for Commonwealth Magazine, Curtatone said including Somerville in the Olympics proposal would require the same input from residents and officials that went into SomerVision, the city’s 20-year master plan.
“The same type of diligent, community-based process must be undertaken regionally if we want the Olympics to bring us long-term community benefits, instead of a three-week party and a legacy of abandoned structures,” he said.
Curtatone said he remains a “willing, constructive partner” to make the Boston Olympics a reality, but bringing the games to fruition by partnering with Somerville should “adhere to that community-based regional approach” that focuses on the city’s long-term needs.
“The city of Boston cannot do this alone. Certain events will have to take place outside the city limits. Many, likely even most, of the visitors for the event would need to stay outside the city. An Olympic Games naturally would spill over into municipalities like Somerville,” he wrote in Commonwealth Magazine. “The Olympics presents an opportunity to leap forward on some of the most pressing issues such as transportation, infrastructure, and housing…that’s the Olympics I want metro Boston to pursue and I remain hopeful we can achieve it.”
In early January, board members from the USOC announced that Boston will represent the U.S. for the 2024 bid for the Summer Games, after Boston 2024’s presentation to officials helped them beat out three other major American cities vying for the honor. On Wednesday, January 21, weeks after the announcement, Boston 2024 made that presentation public.
If Boston were picked, Boston 2024 officials said the venues and events could be separated into “clusters,” allowing attendees and tourists to easily get from place to place. Twenty-eight of the 33 proposed venues would be within a six-mile radius, including those in Somerville and Cambridge, according to details of the proposal.
Boston is now in the running with cities across the globe who want to host the games. It will be up to the International Olympics Committee to choose the most suitable city, based on proposals, to have the event in 2024. That decision is expected sometime in 2017.
In the meantime, Boston officials, in conjunction with Boston 2024, will host nine community meetings over the next nine months to address residents’ concerns and talk about the benefits of bringing the Olympics to the region. The first public meeting on the Boston 2024 effort will be held on January 27, at 6:30 p.m., at Suffolk Law School.