Motley talks about future of Bayside, Olympic Village

Dr. J. Keith MotleyDr. J. Keith Motley

If advocates are ultimately successful in bringing the 2024 Olympic Games to Boston, Dorchester’s own Columbia Point neighborhood would likely play a major role in the event, with the former Bayside Expo Center site —owned by UMass Boston since 2010— converted into an “Olympic Village” to house some 16,000 athletes.

Dr. J. Keith Motley, the chancellor of UMass Boston, played a key role in pitching the Boston 2024 bid to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) during the pivotal presentation in California last month. Motley says he spoke to the committee about the commitment that Boston-area universities have made to facilitate preparations for the games, if they come to the city.

The potential use of the UMass-controlled Bayside site could be a boon for the Dorchester-based campus, which presently uses the 20-acre property as a satellite parking depot for students and faculty. Motley says that a master planning process conducted by UMass in recent years projects future uses of the Bayside site to include residential housing for students, with other academic and athletic facilities, including a track and field facility.

In an interview with the Reporter this week, Motley says that if the 2024 Olympic Village were to be sited there, it would offer the campus a chance to take advantage of “a public private partnership that will allow us to benefit as a campus.”

“We’ve been thinking big for a long time and when this fell out the sky… I can act like I knew the Olympics were going to come,” said Motley. “But we’ve been through a couple of years of just thinking and charretting about Bayside’s use. Now we can think about it a little differently. This would become [an opportunity] to think about it in a way that we could not even dare think before.”

“When we’re looking at Olympics, we’re not just looking at the potential of the buildings, of the residential village, but we’re thinking about the learning opportunity,” Motley told the Reporter. “Even the debate that’s going to happen is an unbelievable learning opportunity for us about how world politics and economic development work.”

Still, Motley said that his personal role in the planning of the Boston 2024 proposal has been relatively limited. Aside from a pre-presentation briefing before the pitch was made to USOC committee members, Motley says he was not privy to many details beyond the role of the universities, including UMass Boston.

“This part of the conversation doesn't dig deep into the details yet. You weren’t really allowed to. I think it’s because you can’t go in there promising things that may not become a reality. [The committee] will go and do their homework,” said Motley.