Boston 2024 Picks Dorchester for Tennis

A week after adding New Bedford, Massachusetts, as its sailing venue, Boston 2024 was back out trying to win more friends for its struggling Olympic bid Thursday - this time in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, at the Sportsmen's Tennis and Enrichment Center.

Boston 2024 is proposing to use Harambee Park, formerly Franklin Field, as home to three tennis stadiums of 10,000, 7,500, and 2,500 seats, leaving the smallest as a permanent addition to the neighborhood. Sportsmen's executive director Toni Wiley envisions this creating a new permanent professional, amateur, and collegiate tennis hub here - maybe a home to a future Boston "Beanpot of tennis" - and also inspiring more inner-city youth to take up the sport.

"Our families that cannot necessarily buy a plane ticket and drive around the world to see the Olympics need to have the opportunity to see this taking place in their own neighborhoods," Wiley said. "I hope that everyone is excited, is as excited as we are. We know that it will be hard work. We know that there will be inconvenience. We're hoping that everybody sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that we get behind it from that perspective."

Boston 2024 had originally proposed to use Harvard University's Allston athletic campus for tennis. CEO Richard Davey said they became convinced moving them next to Sportsmen's was "a brilliant idea" and said the games would pay for a permanently improved Harambee Park.

"We've heard from the community that folks would like to see more basketball courts, maybe better soccer fields, perhaps a baseball diamond, maybe a park. All of that, we want to hear from the community what that lasting legacy could be. So it will be up to the community to tell us what kind of a park that they want to see after 2024," Davey said.

"I just am a firm believer that this is the type of thing that really just helps to prime the pump," said State Rep. Russell Holmes, a Boston Democrat.

And he said he believes the tennis venue exemplifies Boston 2024's commitment to spreading the economic and civic benefits of the games to neighborhoods throughout the city.

"So many folks are asking, if the event is all downtown, how does that improve Mattapan? Dorchester? Hyde Park? Roslindale?" said Holmes.

Boston 2024 faces a June 30 deadline from Gov. Charlie Baker to make public a comprehensive plan for its 33 sports venues and how the $5 billion to $10 billion cost can be covered without putting Massachusetts or Boston taxpayers on the hook.

Separately, Boston 2024 has been looking to relocate about 20 food businesses at Widett Circle to build the main Olympic stadium. It's now looking at moving them here, to the South Boston waterfront.

Many of the businesses are resisting the plan, saying they don't want to be forced to leave the location. And one potentially fatal challenge for the plan to move those businesses here however is a state law called Chapter 91. It restricts use of waterfront land like the Southie site to so-called maritime-dependent industries. Under the law, Boston 2024 could probably get away with moving seafood companies to the Massachusetts Port Authority site - but not meatpackers or other kinds of food companies.

"Boston 2024 has had conversations with Massport but, you know, we've got a lot of work to do," Davey said.

With videographer Brian Butler

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