Civic leaders want to be heard on soccer stadium idea

Community members this week echoed their elected officials’ concerns about a possible siting of a soccer stadium on Columbia Point this week.

Editorial: It's not just the traffic. Bayside impasse makes soccer stadium a long shot

Michael McColgan, who serves on the McCormack Civic Association board, which met on Tuesday evening at Blessed Mother Teresa Church on Columbia Road, just blocks from the Bayside site, told the Reporter that “we haven’t heard anything about it.”

He added, “This is the first time it’s come in front of us. We’re usually very active, and we want to be part of the process very early because a lot of these bigger projects we’ve seen at the BRA and everything else, even though community review is part of the process, we seem to come in midway.”

Of the soccer stadium idea itself, McColgan came right to his point: “We’d like them to stay in Foxborough.”

Janice Geary, a longtime board member, also cited traffic and commute concerns. “We’ve had similar challenges to consider over the years, like the Olympic Village and things like that,” she said. “So, it’s not that we’re against the sport; it’s just that this neighborhood can’t afford the density and the traffic.”
She said the location of I-93’s exits, which bridge two train station entrances and account for the first or last Boston access point from the interstate, would put pressure on “any commuter of any type who’s coming through the area” on heavy game days.

Travis Stewart, a McCormack civic member, said that he had been “on the fence” about a now-defunct plan to site an Olympics Athletes’ Village at the Bayside site, hoping the 2024 Summer Games might spur a solution for local infrastructure woes, especially Kosciuszko Circle, the traffic rotary that continues to present a significant bottleneck for commuters throughout the day, even without special events.

Stewart has similar feelings about any plan for a soccer stadium at Bayside. “Development done right could help. It just depends what comes with it,” said Stewart. “Is there only going to be a soccer stadium and nothing else but traffic, or other uses for the land, too? Good uses, like the community actually has a chance to use it in some way, shape, or form.”

A traffic study for Kosciusko Circle would also be a plus if included in the discussions, he said. 
Civic members were in agreement on one point: a development project of this scale should be vetted through the community process transparently and early on. “My personal feeling is that sooner is always better,” Stewart said. “The more we know, ‘cause it just makes it look less shady.”

As news spread of the stadium idea spread on Wednesday morning, the Reporter spoke to commuters at the JFK-UMass T station.

“There’s definitely a lot of congestion around here,” said one MBTA employee, on his break at the station. “They’d have to re-design that rotary––that’s tough now anyways with the traffic at rush hour. They’d have to do a lot of work down here with the roads.”

Building a soccer stadium at the site, the T worker thinks, is a good idea in theory. But is it worth spending new dollars from the state and city budgets?

“No, not at all,” said the employee, who requested that the Reporter withhold his name. “What’s UMass going to get out of it? What am I going to get out of it as a state taxpayer?”

Yolanda Diego, a Roxbury resident and teacher at the Joseph Lee School on Talbot Street in Dorchester, disagrees, noting the potential for beneficial community outreach programs, especially for the city’s youth.

“It would be another way to bring more children together to get to know each other and have fun in a different way than being on the street,” Diego, who is taking graduate school classes at UMass Boston, said. “There are a lot of people who love soccer around this area.”

Noor Tahirkhelia, a doctorial student at UMass Boston, says some students worry about the opportunity cost of building an MLS stadium that might divert resources from other, more pressing, campus needs.

“If it was something that was more for the students or something that would be related to how it could make a positive impact on the school here, I would be excited about it, but it doesn’t really seem like it would be,” said Tahirkhelia. “I imagine if there’s games, it would be annoying. If it’s coinciding with anything related to school, it would cause a lot of traffic or it could cause a lot of frustration, in terms of crowding in this area. Already we don’t have enough spaces to park, so I think it would just create a fuss.”

Griffin Connolly contributed reporting for this article.