Monday, February 9, 2015

Boston 2024 - Franklin Park as the Equestrian Venue

Photo from the cover of Number 4: Sports + Venues2024Boston.org

A little while ago the "Bid Book" that was presented to the United States Olympic Committee that Boston put together to ultimately win the US's bid was released to the public. Today I want to explore what the venues for the equestrian events for the 2024 Olympics - should Boston ultimately win the bid from the International Olympic Committee - be like.

(Click any of the images to make them bigger!)

City of Boston and outlying areas.
Screenshot from Number 1: Overall Games Concept, 2024Boston.org

Franklin Park, which is public land that lies roughly 5 miles south of Boston, would be the home of the Equestrian Events and the Modern Pentathlon.

Screenshot from Google Earth
White Stadium is in the top center of the image, while the William J. Devine Golf Course is in the center lower portion.
White Stadium in Franklin Park is listed as an existing venue capable of hosting the equestrian events and the modern pentathlon. No venue option #2 is listed. It is suggested that the current capacity of 10,000 would be doubled to hold 20,000 total by the time the games are held. White Stadium is a permanent structure that is currently home to football and track and field for the Boston Public schools and it is already staled to undergo renovations and improvements over the next 2 years. After accommodating the the dressage and jumping competitions I presume it would most likely return to an athletic field for the school system after the Games.

Potential layout of the White Stadium area for the dressage and jumping events.
Screenshot from Number 4: Sports + Venues, 2024Boston.org

According to Bid Book Number 1: Overall Games Concept, the cross-country portion of the eventing competition would be laid out on the existing land of the William J. Devine Golf Course, which is the second oldest public golf course in the country. The golf course has varied terrain, water, and viewing areas already established. While I'm sure golf fanatics are positively cringing at the thought of horses galloping across and digging up their nicely manicured greens, the bid book actually lists the cross-country course as a temporary venue. Describing the course as "currently in need of reinvestment," the book states that the golf course will be established after the Olympics have concluded.

Potential layout for the cross-country course on the William J. Devine golf course.
Screenshot from Number 4: Sports + Venues, 2024Boston.org

Initially, the thought of the equine event venues being disbanded after the Games are over was disappointing to me. As a local, I would LOVE to have world-class equestrian facilities so close to me. I envy those in other states such as Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina that have established horse parks that routinely host awesome events. In fact, the Georgia International Horse Park is actually a result of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. However, I understand that the Boston 2024 Olympic bid places a lot of emphasis on land preservation as well as accessibility to all the events.

I've come to realize that restoring the park and golf course to their original states after the Olympics would be the right thing to do, given that it is the city's largest park at 485 acres. I don't live in the city myself - I live about 35 miles north and commute down for work - but the reason that I commute so far is that I've honestly never been a city person and don't have the desire to be (it's hard to be a city person AND a horse person.) I love open spaces and trees and I really see the value of bringing green space to cities. While it would be neat to have equestrian facilities so close to the city and so close to me, I think it's important to give this space back when the Olympics are over so that the local population can enjoy the land for themselves instead of keeping for the use of equestrians, who comprise a comparatively small percentage of population. White Stadium is also the home to a free summer sports camp for kids ages 7 to 14. Taking that away from the community and leaving a permanent equestrian stadium would practically be a crime.
White Stadium, Franklin Park. Photo from Panoramio.com
Placing the equestrian portion of the Games in Franklin Park keeps these events within 5 miles of the city proper and less than a mile walk from the Forest Hills Station (Orange Line) subway stop. I was initially disappointed (and still am a bit) to learned that the equestrian events would not be held up near me, somewhere such as Groton House Farm or Bradley Palmer State Park. Groton House Farm is privately owned land and until 2009 they were the closest Area I event to Boston to host Intermediate and Advanced divisions (they only go through Preliminary now. Sadness.) They even hosted the Olympic Trials for the USET prior to the 1996 Atlanta Games. The farm certainly has the land for a world-class cross-country course, however, the open space for a Grand Prix capacity stadium would be tough to find. The same space constraints for a stadium would be applicable to Bradley Palmer as it is a primarily wooded area.

At 30 miles north of Boston, both Groton House Farm and Bradley Palmer State Park are too far away to be considered easily accessible. The sole mode of public transit that goes up that way is the same commuter rail line that I take to work everyday. Plus, the roads actually leading to these places are classic New England - narrow and winding. A 2013 article in a local Hamilton-Wenham town newpaper actually quotes Ann Getchell, the owner of the Groton House facilities as saying, "I think it would be impossible to do something like [the Olympics] in a community like Hamilton."

Having the equestrian events north of the city would not have been keeping with Boston 2024's vision of a walkable Olympics. Keeping them close to the city in Franklin Park stays true to the City's mission of keeping the Games accessible, plus it would bring equestrian sports closer to the city than they have probably ever been before, thereby exposing these sports to an audience of people who may never get the opportunity to witness them. I think that is a very valuable thing.

So (as if it matters to anyone on the Boston 2024 committee) I approve of the location for equestrian events. It took me a while to come to that conclusion because I wanted to do a bit of research about it on my own first before I judged it, but I think I understand their reasoning pretty well for picking this location. Frankly, as long as I can get tickets or volunteer or something, I'll be a happy camper! That is, assuming this actually becomes a reality! We've got a long way to go yet.  

17 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I think it would be a crazy cool experience living in an Olympic host city and would so love to see the equestrian events (and others) in person!

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  2. This is such a great overview! I grew up in Adelaide, where the Adelaide International 4* Event happens annually, and every year they shut down portions of the city for the cross country phase. Because it is in and around the city, even people who have NO interest in riding come out to see cross country day! So I think having the park converted would be great for Boston and for equestrian sports at the Olympics!

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  3. this is SO COOL!!! if they win the bid i'm totally coming up haha!!!

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  4. this is SO COOL!!! if they win the bid i'm totally coming up haha!!!

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  5. It's pretty cool that the horseback riding would actually been in the city as opposed to being far out like usual. Might get more non-horse people to appreciate the event.

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    1. I think so too - could be really good for the sport for that reason

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  6. Very cool! It's interesting to see how they plan to accommodate everything, and honestly I think it the most economical to return existing facilities back after the games.

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    1. I agree, even though I was disappointed at first. One of Boston's main goals for their bid is to be economical and 'low-impact' so it definitely makes sense!

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  7. This is so interesting to see how it all comes together! Would be so exciting if it actually happens!

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  8. All I have to say is that I think a nice golf course SHOULD have horses galloping across it from time to time.

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  9. This is SUCH a good overview! You should send it in to Eventing Nation.

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    1. So I did shortly after you commented, and they posted it the next day! Too cool!!! Thanks for the tip!!!!

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