Your Essential Boston 2024 Bid Book Reading List
Earlier this week, we published the “highly confidential” Boston 2024 bid book, submitted to the United States Olympic Committee in December and obtained via public records request filed with the University of Massachusetts. The 284-page, previously unpublished document contained a treasure trove of revelations, from countless cost estimates, to what the bid considers its “weaknesses and threats,” to the mechanism by which bid organizers plan to finance Olympic venues.
Since then, a number of other media outlets have followed up, pointing out notable takeaways from the bid book. Here’s a roundup of essential reading:
The First Wave
Some first reactions to the bid book release.
“Boston 2024 report highlights need for public funding, expanded BCEC”
Boston Business Journal
The staff at BBJ obtained the bid book via public records request as well, highlighting the bid’s reliance not only on a public authority to “fund land acquisition and infrastructure costs,” but also on an expanded Boston Convention and Events Center—the same billion-dollar expansion Gov. Charlie Baker froze in April. Plenty of deep cuts here.
Wu highlights the “shared financing” of the 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium in Widett Circle detailed in the bid book, which calls for two-thirds of the cost to be covered by taxpayers.
“Newly released Boston 2024 documents provide look at stadium plan”
Adam Vacarro, Boston.com
It says “Option 2” for the stadium would involve “construction of a 60,000 seat Olympic Stadium…with a legacy use for professional soccer (23,000 seats).” Boston 2024 estimates that this would cost about $573 million, or $135 million more than the temporary stadium plan. It also estimated that converting the stadium post-Olympics would cost an additional $59 million. (For comparison’s sake, conversion of London’s Olympic Stadium into a soccer venue has cost closer to $300 million.)
Who Knew What, When?
You might be surprised…or not.
“Warren: Boston 2024 did not disclose need for public cash”
Matt Stout, Boston Herald
“They did not disclose that,” said Warren, who didn’t directly address a question of whether she felt the public was being misled. “I’ve said all along, I want to know where the money’s coming from and where the money’s going to be spent.”
“Baker says he was in the dark on Boston 2024 plan to use expanded BCEC”
Craig Douglas, Boston Business Journal
Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday he was never — “ever” — informed that Boston’s initial bid to land the 2024 Summer Olympics included plans to use an expanded convention center in South Boston to help support the Games. That’s the same convention-center expansion that his administration indefinitely froze earlier this year amid a state budget crisis.
In an interview with WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan, Mayor Marty Walsh responded to questions raised by the release of the Boston 2024’s bid book. “Tax incentives…could be used here, but not for the Olympics, but for what happens before the Olympics and what happens after the Olympics, as far as the development of a site,” Walsh said, adding, “I have zero tolerance for spending taxpayers’ money for building stadiums or building venues for the Olympics.”
Getting into the tax bond nitty gritty.
“Bond experts: Boston 2024 financing plan contradicts vow to avoid public funds”
Greg Ryan, Boston Business Journal
Boston 2024 officials have maintained that only private funds will be used to build Olympics venues, a stance the group reiterated in a statement on Thursday after the Business Journal published excerpts of the bid document obtained through a freedom of information request. Nonetheless, TIF bonds are a form of public financing, issued through either a municipality like Boston or the state agency MassDevelopment, that carry risk like any other public bond, experts told the Business Journal Thursday.
It can sound complicated, but basically boils down to this: a public group (like a city government) helps to spur private growth by providing a needed project in an area, and pays for that (plus interest) by using the extra money that it takes in from growing property tax revenue.
And finally, here are the conversations from my visits to RadioBoston and NECN:
“Boston 2024 ‘Bid Book’, Obtained by Boston Journalists, Reveals Need For Public Money”
RadioBoston, WBUR 90.9FM
“Shedding New Light on Boston 2024’s Plans”