Women’s professional soccer in the U.S. is growing in popularity. Millions of Americans tuned into the latest FIFA Women’s World Cup which enjoyed a record breaking 2 billion viewers. This summer, an unprecedented amount of ticket sales were recorded by the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Amid the buzz, a gleaming new women’s professional soccer stadium (and team) is coming to the city of Boston as part of NWSL’s expansion plan into three new cities, including San Francisco and Salt Lake City.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman announced this week at Boston City Hall that the city will have a new women’s professional soccer franchise by 2026. The deal is happening vis-a-vis a $100 million investment by Boston Unity Soccer Partners, a women-led investor group from the greater Boston area. The name of Boston’s new soccer team is to be determined.
A new $30 million soccer stadium designed by Stantec in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood will coincide with its new franchise. According to The Boston Globe, the new stadium will be built in Franklin Park, part of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s Emerald Necklace. The architects will refurbish an existing complex built in 1945, George White Stadium, that historically hosted Boston Public School matches, concerts, and rallies. Last year the city unveiled a master plan highlighting areas of the Franklin Park slated for improvement.
Last July, Boston Unity Soccer Partners released a 115-page document showing their plans for the 74-year-old stadium. Stantec’s improvements will host 11,000 spectators and be integrated with the Franklin Park Action Plan, which seeks to improve surrounding parklands. The major improvements coming to the stadium will be new roof canopies over existing seating areas. According to the architects, the structures are “based on the form of leaves, inspired by Franklin Park and Frederick Law Olmsted, where each design element is specific to this special place.”
Boston Unity Soccer Partners struck a deal with the city so that the new professional soccer team will have access to it twenty days out of the year while on the remaining days it will be usable by Boston Public Schools sports programs. There will also be a new, 62,500-square-foot mixed-use event space at the stadium’s southern end, to be named The Grove.
“Our mission is to field a championship-caliber soccer club, provide an elite fan experience in a historic stadium with an inclusive environment that reflects the diversity of our region and the world’s most popular sport, and operate a franchise that is deeply rooted in the fabric and success of Boston and our communities’ culture,” Boston Unity’s controlling manager Jennifer Epstein told local reporters.
To assuage concerns related to traffic and congestion, Boston Unity Soccer Partners estimate that 10 percent of visitors will either walk or bike to the stadium. Over 40 percent will use public transportation, and the remaining fans will access the stadium via their own cars or ride-sharing. The new development will have shuttle buses from Green Street and Forest Hills stations on the T’s Orange Line.
After a community engagement process, construction could begin by April 2024. The stadium is set for completion by March 2026.