Franklin Park’s White Stadium lining up to be home of Boston’s next professional women’s soccer team
Calling Franklin Park’s White Stadium “home” could be signed, sealed and delivered for an all-female group behind a bid for Boston’s next professional women’s soccer team.
Boston Unity Soccer Partners submitted the only response to the city’s request for proposals to lease, improve and use the stadium’s West Grandstand and adjacent areas in the park as part of a public-private partnership.
Residents are invited to a community meeting scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. via Zoom to learn more about the estimated $30-million proposal which would renovate the West Grandstand, improve the field and environment, and add event space in a fenced-in area south of the stadium’s track.
Not only would the project lead to a home for the city’s next National Women’s Soccer League team, it would also improve conditions for Boston Public Schools athletics, as many teams compete at the long-neglected stadium.
The City of Boston, responsible for improvements to the East Grandstand, would fund half the project, and Boston Unity Soccer Partners the other half. The lease would be up to 10 years, with potential to renew.
“Our mission is to field a championship-caliber soccer club, provide an elite fan experience in a historic stadium with an inclusive environment that reflects the diversity of our region and the world’s most popular sport,” the group’s controlling manager Jennifer Epstein wrote in a letter to Morgan McDaniel, the city’s deputy chief of operations for capital investments.
Boston has yet to officially join the NWSL, with reports indicating the group could win a bid in 2025 at the earliest. If all goes according to plan, Boston Unity Soccer Partners expects the team to be ready to play in the improved White Stadium for the 2026 season.
The San Francisco Bay Area and Utah will be joining the growing NWSL as expansion franchises next year, bringing the league 14 total teams.
Boston last held a professional women’s soccer team in 2017, the final season for the Boston Breakers, part of the NWSL, before it folded in 2018. The team played its matches at the roughly 4,000-seat Jordan Field in Allston.
White Stadium seats about 10,000 spectators, but Boston Unity Soccer Partners’ proposal looks to increase that number to 11,000. The venue would host 20 matches between March and October, with many being played on the weekend.
A conceptual study the city conducted in 2013 indicated the stadium required considerable capital investment to become a state-of-the-art home for student athletes, the RFP states. A fire destroyed the East Grandstand decades ago, making it unusable, and the West Grandstand does not meet accessibility requirements and is out of compliance with the building code.
“Because of years of neglect, the stadium appears out of place and off-limits,” Boston Unity Soccer Partners wrote in its proposal. “It is our primary responsibility to add energy and new ideas so that the stadium can be reinvigorated and knit itself into its natural environment as a new magnet for present and future generations.”
The group expects the project could have a wide range of economic benefits on the greater community. Construction would generate more than 500 jobs, and the workers would be employed onsite for two years. About 300 permanent jobs would then be created once the stadium is renovated, according to the proposal.
Boston Unity Soccer Partners would operate and maintain the stadium’s field on behalf of BPS, allowing the district to redirect more than $400,000 to new educational programming.
The city allocated $10.5 million to fund the stadium’s design in this fiscal year’s $4.2-billion capital plan
“We believe that a stadium can serve as a catalyst for positive change, fostering economic growth, community engagement, and social development,” Epstein wrote. “We will focus our economic and community benefits with a priority on the neighborhoods around the stadium.”