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Boston Unity Soccer Partners, city to hold summer celebration at White Stadium amid controversy

Mandile Mpofu
Boston Unity Soccer Partners, city to hold summer celebration at White Stadium amid controversy
Residents, abutters and advocacy groups have raised concerns about how White Stadium plans will affect the quality of life for surrounding communities. PHOTO: JEREMIAH ROBINSON

White Stadium, the Franklin Park arena at the heart of an ongoing community controversy, will soon be the location of a summer celebration.

On July 11, the city of Boston and the National Women’s Soccer League Boston, whose local expansion team is owned by Boston Unity Soccer Partners, will host a community event to usher in the warm weather with various art and music offerings.

The event comes as a proposed plan by BUSP to revamp White Stadium for partial use by the soccer team continues to divide the neighborhood.

Jennifer Epstein, controlling manager of BUSP, said, “White Stadium is a community asset at its core, and this is a fun day to bring the community together at the stadium and … meet some of the people involved in the proposed renovation.”

This is the second community event related to the White Stadium renovation that BUSP and the city have held. Earlier this year, they organized an open house at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, where they presented information on the project and fielded questions.

The proposal, currently in its design stage, has received pushback from some abutters who are concerned about how the renovation will affect community access to White Stadium. The Franklin Park Defenders, made up of a group of Franklin Park neighbors and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, have pressed forward with a lawsuit targeting the White Stadium renovation.

Epstein said the summer celebration will stand apart from the dispute.

“Our aim is to have long-term relationships to communities around White Stadium,” she said. “So our goal for this event is to help in that. It has nothing to do with the lawsuit or anything else that might be going on outside of our plans.”

The event, taking place from 3 to 7 p.m., will feature local businesses, face-painting, balloon artists and music performances. Mayor Michelle Wu is set to be in attendance.

While Epstein is setting aside the controversy, Errin Davis, who is spearheading event logistics for the celebration, said she sees the event as an opportunity to address community concerns regarding the White Stadium renovation project.

“The goal is to ensure that the community is aware of these projects and also give them an opportunity to voice any feedback that they would have and or ask any questions and really get to know … the team on a deeper level,” said Davis, chief operating officer at The Davis System, an organization serving as a community engagement consultant for the soccer team.

The celebration will include tables dedicated to providing details about each phase of the project, including sections dedicated to BPS athletics, the design phase and community involvement. Attendees are welcome to visit each table to learn more about the project and ask questions.

Jacob Bor, a board member of the Franklin Park Coalition and an associate professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, said he has witnessed a lot of community support for the renovation project.

“We think this plan has a lot of potential … to both rehabilitate this stadium, which needs a lot of work and is underutilized, and for our purposes, more importantly, to bring resources into the park and to uplift the park and advance the Franklin Park Action Plan,” he said.

The Franklin Park Action Plan is a roadmap for investments in the park, according to the city’s website.

Bor, who lives in Roxbury’s Egleston Square, said he’s excited for the event and views it as an opportunity for the community to articulate what they want to get out of the renovation. He added that those strongly opposed to the project “don’t represent a majority of park users or community members, who have a much more nuanced perspective on what this project could bring.”

Derrick Evans, a member of the Franklin Park Defenders, the group behind the lawsuit against the project, said a celebration is not what the community needs.

The project leaders are “more interested in investing time and resources and attention to celebrations than to community process,” he said. “I think the cart is before the horse.”

Evans, a longtime Roxbury resident, said he wasn’t aware of the summer celebration until the Bay State Banner contacted him. He called the event “disingenuous” and said that it, along with other Zoom calls and meetings the city or BUSP have held, is not an example of “meaningful community engagement.”

Davis said the city and BUSP will aim to provide neighbors with facts about the project, while gathering feedback and dispelling “misinformation” about the project.

“I hope people feel a larger sense of community within White Stadium,” she said, “and I hope that … after seeing different parts of the project, feel as though this is going to be something that will benefit our community for generations to come, as it has supported generations in the past, but we need it to be revitalized, to be the stadium that we know it should be.”