Proposed Volleyball Stadium on Common Raises Concerns

A plan to erect a temporary volleyball stadium on the Boston Common if the city wins its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics already has some civic leaders fearing it would greatly reduce public access to the national landmark and potentially cause long-term damage to the park.

                Elizabeth Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, the non-profit stewards of the Public Garden, Common and Commonwealth Avenue Mall, said while the group has no position on whether the Olympics should ultimately come to Boston, it has serious concerns regarding Boston 2024’s choice of the Common as its proposed volleyball venue.

                “It is hard to imagine building a stadium that would accommodate 16,000 people in America’s oldest public park without causing significant damage to the park’s trees and turf,” Vizza wrote in an e-mail. “It is also almost certain that a large area of the park would be unavailable to the public for many months leading up to the Olympics, and many months afterward to do restoration work.”

                Vizza said the Friends are interested in learning what plans are in place to protect the Common and other city parks if Boston does in fact host the games.

                Colin Zick, a member of the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) board of directors and chair of its Parks and Public Places Committee, said while the group also hasn’t officially taken a stance on Boston hosting the 2024 games, he was personally troubled by the possible removal of “ancient” trees and other potential impacts of Olympic volleyball on the Common.

                “The initial design also shows other structures placed across another third of the Common,” Zick wrote in an e-mail.  “Together, this plan would essentially exclude neighborhood dog owners, baseball and softball teams, sledding, you name it, from the majority of the Common for that extended period.”

                Mark Kiefer, president of the BHCA board, said the group looks forward to deliberating the matter internally after more specifics of the proposal become available.

                “We understand the desire on the part of the mayor to have events like this downtown, but at the same, downtown venues bring a number of significant challenges and potential impacts,” Kiefer said. “We need to have a serious conversation about what the best location for these venues would be. We would welcome an opportunity to be part of that discussion.”

                City Councilor Josh Zakim said his utmost concerns with the proposal are the long-term health of the Common and ongoing public access to the park.

                “We need to make sure that people who are going to be impacted the most, those who live and work around the Common, have a voice in the process,” Zakim added.

                State Rep. Jay Livingstone suggested that one of the state’s many beaches would serve as a more appropriate venue for Olympic volleyball.

                “It has the potential to cause significant damage to the Common, including the removal of trees,” Livingstone said. “I’ll continue to work to preserve the Common.”

Regardless of whether a volleyball stadium on the Common comes to pass, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he remains committed to the long-term preservation of the park.   “It is my priority that wherever Olympic venues are built, those locations see guaranteed infrastructure improvements and significant neighborhood benefits,” Walsh stated. “I encourage all Beacon Hill residents to attend one of the public meetings that is planned to learn more about the Olympics and planning for 2024.”

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