When the National Women’s Soccer League officially awarded Boston an expansion franchise at a ceremony at City Hall Plaza last month, there were smiles and handshakes all around as fans and supporters celebrated the prospect of professional women’s soccer coming back to the city.
But residents have plenty of questions about how White Stadium's renovation and fans coming to games will affect surrounding neighborhoods.
A community meeting Wednesday night at the William J. Devine Golf Course at Franklin Park peeled back the curtain to just how much work there is to do before any player ever touches the pitch. The meeting — one of several planned to address the project — focused on transportation to and from the stadium.
The city and Boston Unity Soccer Partners, the yet unnamed team’s ownership group, do not plan to have general game day parking at White Stadium when games are scheduled to begin in 2026. The current proposal centers around fans using public transportation and four satellite parking lots located outside of Franklin Park, which would be serviced by shuttles to get to the stadium.
Those plans were discussed at a virtual meeting last week, where people had many of the same questions, some of which went beyond just transportation, that were shared by residents on Wednesday.
One of the key concerns that’s popped up is how people can be prevented from parking in the neighborhood on game days.
Currently, there is a moratorium on the expansion of resident permit parking in Boston. Nick Gove, the Boston Transportation Department commissioner, said that moratorium is a side effect of staffing issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The concern about expanding resident permit parking is you need to have the enforcement to go along with the posted regulations for that to be effective,” he said.
Gove said some people have expressed interest in game day restrictions. He said the Transportation Department can commit to a street-by-street review of existing conditions and regulations to determine what makes sense in terms of access to and egress from the stadium.
“I’m very confident in making that commitment,” he said. “I think the team shares that commitment as well. And honestly, I think it’s that level of due diligence, on the ground, street by street, that will produce the best transportation plan here.”
Beyond the x’s and o’s of how game day transportation will work in an already heavily congested area, the meeting presented a platform for a community that largely seemed supportive of a women’s soccer team playing at White Stadium while wanting to make sure the powers that be weren’t taking any shortcuts.
David Sandak, whose home is near the stadium, has two daughters and is excited for the team to play, but described the transportation plan presented as unrealistic without solid restrictions and enforcement on parking.
“The city has a track record and history of underinvesting and saying, ‘Just trust us, we will figure it out,’” Sandak said. “That historically has not been the case, because when you’ve said ‘Just trust us and [we’ll] figure it out,’ it somehow gets forgotten along the way.”
But Morgan McDaniel, deputy chief of operations for capital investments for the city, stressed that City Hall isn't just waiting for a plan to fall into place.
“We are not just sitting around waiting until January 2026 comes around and then be like, ‘Oh, crap, we need to figure this out,’ right?” she said. “It’s just that obviously this is a complex issue, we have a lot of things to work through and so we anticipate a lengthy process as we work through all these considerations.”
McDaniel said she has a Post-It note on her desk as a reminder of the need to plan. And the community meetings, she said, are an essential part of that process.
“We’re not here to try and give you the final answer,” she said, “because we want to hear from you and have you be part of that answer.”
Stephanie Connaughton, one of the four founding partners of Boston Unity Soccer Partners, said they knew there would be concerns. And team ownership is planning on fine-tuning its vision for the game day experience even after the first kickoff.
“We’re gonna design a plan, we’re gonna put all the pieces in place, and then we’re gonna go out and there will be games and there will be actual experience,” she said. “And we’ll need to react and improve the plan as we go. I mean, that is our intention, is to have it be kind of continually improved.”