How the DCR Signed Over Castle Island to Boston 2024 with a Rubber Stamp
Castle Island is an under-appreciated South Boston treasure. There’s a good chance it inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” It’s home to long-dormant fortifications, breathtaking views of Boston Harbor, and of course Sullivan’s, the beloved clam shack that slings hot dogs and lobster rolls each summer.
In Boston 2024’s Bid 1.0, it was listed as the venue for sailing, as well as the backup site for the triathlon. “This would be an ideal location,” former Mayor Ray Flynn told Boston.com on Castle Island in October, eight months before he was named to Boston 2024’s board of directors. “Boston would be an ideal location for the world Olympics. It teaches lasting lessons. Its traditions and history remains forever and that’s Boston to a T.”
Bid 2.0, released at the end of June, moved sailing to the fishing and whaling city of New Bedford, while the triathlon migrated to Herter Park in Allston/Brighton. Of the eight events that still need a proposed venue—golf, BMX cycling, track cycling, mountain biking, basketball regionals, diving, swimming and synchro, and water polo—none would require an outdoor, aquatic setting. That would seem to end Castle Island’s inclusion in bid organizers’ plans: it’s not currently listed in the new bid.
But how did it get there in the first place? The story of how Boston 2024 obtained permission to include Castle Island in Bid 1.0 is still instructive, because it shows how closely the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation worked with the Olympic effort.
One of the USOC’s myriad requirements for Bid 1.0 was a letter “from the public authorities who own any of the proposed venues, confirming that the venue will be made available to the USOG for Games use either at no cost or at a market rental rate to be pre-approved by the USOC.”
“I would like to approach the EEA and/or the DCR to request a letter for our proposed use of Magazine Beach (for the triathlon) and Castle Island (for the spectator viewing area for sailing),” Boston 2024 Vice President Nikko Mendoza told then Gov. Deval Patrick’s chief of staff Rick Sullivan in an October 29 email obtained by Boston magazine. “This letter would simply reinforce our proof of concept plans (with the understanding that these plans are subject to change), demonstrate our partnership with public agencies and allow for plenty of opportunity for further discussion about details post-designation.”
By Halloween morning, Boston 2024 still had not received its letter.
“Sorry to bug you about this again, but I just wanted to check on this request,” Mendoza said. “Our deadline to submit the bid book chapter and letters is later today, and I’m hoping we can get the DCR letter by email some time this morning.”
DCR chief of staff Jason Silva connected with Mendoza and fellow Boston 2024 Vice President Erin Murphy and asked for a draft of such a letter. Mendoza provided him one. The language of the letter provided by Boston 2024’s vice president (below, at left) did not change by a single word—it was taken verbatim and printed on DCR letterhead, then signed by Commissioner Jack Murray, and included in the bid book submitted to the USOC in December.
[Click to enlarge.]
To be fair, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority executive director Jim Rooney signed off on the same draft letter as well. Mayor Marty Walsh, regardless of whether he or anyone else at City Hall read the bid book, at least changed the language in his letter of support.