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Boston 2024 Plans To Hold Olympic Tennis In Dorchester

A rendering of what Harambee Park in Dorchester would look like during the 2024 Olympics, should Boston win the bid. (Courtesy Boston 2024)
A rendering of what Harambee Park in Dorchester would look like during the 2024 Olympics, should Boston win the bid. (Courtesy Boston 2024)
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The group organizing Boston's bid for the 2024 Summer Games will use Harambee Park in Dorchester for Olympic tennis, should its bid be chosen by the International Olympic Committee.

Boston 2024 made the announcement Thursday afternoon at the park. Under the group's plan, a permanent 2,500-seat tennis stadium would be built and the park would house two temporary stadiums during the games — one with 10,000-seat capacity and one with 7,500-seat capacity.

The 45-acre park is located just south of the larger Franklin Park and bordered by Blue Hill Avenue. It is the site of the historic Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center, which was established in 1961 and was the first nonprofit African-American-owned tennis club in the country.

"Sportsmen's was built on the concept of equal access — to say that tennis is for everyone," the center's executive director, Toni Wiley, told WBUR. "It's a sport that no matter what your ZIP code is, no matter what your background or socioeconomic constraints maybe, you can excel at this sport if you put in the work. I would say that the founders are looking down on today and just saying that this is an amazing accomplishment."

Ahead of the Harambee Park press conference, Boston 2024 released a video featuring the sportsmen’s center and Wiley, who called it a "tremendously exciting" opportunity to host tennis and wheelchair tennis.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AW0ktdYoa4&feature=youtu.be

"Part of the legacy of this will be that a stadium court will be left here for us to utilize," Wiley says in the video. "For people to be willing to come and see that Dorchester is a beautiful place, that Harambee Park is just a wonderful place to come and visit, for them to be able to do that during the Olympics would be tremendous for this community."

Wiley also told WBUR she believes the venue would bring economic growth and jobs to the neighborhood.

During Thursday's press conference, Wiley said the tennis club wants to use the permanent stadium to host professional circuit-level tournaments after the Olympics, WBUR's Simón Ríos reports. At the press conference, Rep. Russell Holmes, whose district includes Dorchester, said he supports Boston 2024 and organizers have met with people in the neighborhood.

In a fact sheet on its venue plans, Boston 2024 highlighted the park’s proximity to public transportation, specifically the Red Line and two commuter rail stops. Bid organizers previously said they wanted to create the most walkable games in their pitch to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Boston 2024's original Olympics plan had tennis slated for Harvard.

Last week, Boston 2024 announced plans to host Olympic sailing in New Bedford — instead of Boston Harbor, as the group originally planned — should it win the bid. Bid organizers are expected to make more venue announcements in the coming weeks.

Boston 2024 is currently developing an updated games concept with new details and venue plans. The private nonprofit is expected to release the updated version of its bid by the end of the month.

The new venue announcements come as a WBUR poll shows a higher level of support for the games statewide if the venues are spread out across Massachusetts, instead of being located in just the Boston area.

In the poll, 49 percent said they opposed hosting the Olympics in Boston, with 39 percent in favor. But when asked about support if venues were spread out around the state, 51 percent of poll respondents said they supported hosting the games, with 37 percent opposed.

The poll was WBUR's first statewide Olympics survey.

Here is a rendering of what Harambee Park would look like after the 2024 Olympics, if Boston wins the bid (click to enlarge image):

A rendering of what Harambee Park in Dorchester would look like after the 2024 Olympics, should Boston win the bid. (Courtesy Boston 2024)
A rendering of what Harambee Park in Dorchester would look like after the 2024 Olympics, should Boston win the bid. (Courtesy Boston 2024)

This article was originally published on June 11, 2015.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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