Architects warns about costs of temporary Boston Olympic stadium


Boston Olympic stadium

Patrons of the 2024 Boston Olympics are vouching for a temporary stadium for the event. They envision a temporary 60,000-seat Olympic stadium in South Boston which, once the event is over, could be dismantled.

The vast arena – with all the hallmarks, safety systems, and design details of a permanent structure – would host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field events. And then it would be removed, down to the last bolt.

The plan – audacious in its scope and complexity – has no precedent, according to independent architects, and would pose a steep design, engineering, and financial challenge, all for a giant structure that would stand for about six to eight months.

While sporting venues that can be scaled down or have seats removed have become more common, the temporary Olympic stadium would need to meet intense security requirements and exacting track and field rules. It would also need space for locker rooms, drug testing, Olympic officials, and worldwide media.

Perhaps just as challenging, the stadium would need to be a showpiece, striking enough to be broadcast around the world as a symbol of Boston, according to Mike Holleman of Heery International, the architectural firm that designed the stadium for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

“It can’t be a bunch of bleachers stuck up there,” Holleman said. “It needs to look like an iconic Olympic stadium, if you’re going to have any chance” of landing the 2024 Summer Games against a host of international competitors.

Benjamin Flowers, an associate professor of architecture at Georgia Tech, said a 60,000-seat stadium would be so large and complex that calling it a temporary structure would be inaccurate.

“What they are really saying is, build a full-on stadium and then demolish it,” said Flowers, who studies stadiums around the world. “It strikes me as a curious proposition to suggest investing the many hundreds of millions it would take to do that to then demolish it and take it down.”

David P Manfredi, an architect working with Boston 2024, the private group pushing the city’s Olympic bid, said a first-rate temporary stadium can be built and would hold several advantages over a permanent arena.

Most importantly, because no sports team in Boston wants such a stadium after the Olympics, removing it will ensure the city is not saddled with a hulking eyesore. In Beijing, for example, the 91,000-seat Bird’s Nest stadium, built for the 2008 Olympics at a cost of $480 million, now sits mostly vacant.

“We don’t want to leave any white elephants,” Manfredi said.

Temporary stadiums made from aluminium and steel framing also “have much simpler foundations,” than traditional concrete stadiums, which means they are “significantly less expensive,” he said.

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