Boston 2024 Olympics group updates $4.6B bid

JIMMY GOLEN, Associated Press
PHILIP MARCELO, Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — The group trying to bring the 2024 Olympics to Boston released the most detailed look yet at its bid for the Summer Games on Monday, unveiling a $4.6 billion plan it says would create thousands of jobs and housing units, expand the city’s tax base and leave behind a vastly-improved regional transit system — all with a $210 million surplus.
The announcement was designed to answer critics who say the privately funded Boston 2024 has withheld details of the bid to prevent the public from assessing whether the games could be staged, as promised, without the need for taxpayer money.
The so-called “Bid 2.0” comes as Boston 2024 organizers head to San Francisco for a critical meeting before the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors Tuesday.
“We’ve now done the ‘little-picture’ thinking,” said bid chairman Steve Pagliuca, a co-owner of the Boston Celtics. “We think we’ve made the major leaps.”
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who was among the state leaders pressing Olympics planners to produce more detailed plans by the end of the month, said the state would need to look more carefully into the bid’s assumptions, especially around infrastructure improvements.
The update contains “far more information and far more detail than anything we’ve seen before,” he said after a lengthy private meeting with Pagliuca and Democratic legislative leaders Monday. “The big question… is making sure we really understand what is expected of the Commonwealth and the taxpayers.”
Local Olympics opponents said the revised plan still fails to guarantee taxpayers won’t foot the bill in the event of cost overruns or revenue shortfalls.
Chris Dempsey, co-chairman of the No Boston Olympics group, said organizers haven’t delved into the details of a proposed insurance plan to protect taxpayer interests, including whether there’s an insurer actually willing to provide the coverage.
“They still have not explained why city of Boston taxpayers need to take the risk and sign a blank check,” he said. “Boston 2024’s only real insurer is the taxpayers of Massachusetts.”
Olympics organizers described a “multi-layer” insurance package costing roughly $128 million and including an umbrella policy and individual policies for venue-building projects. Pagliuca promised more details about the idea would be forthcoming.
“There is very little risk that these insurances won’t cover every issue that can happen,” he said.
Boston’s bid has stumbled since getting the initial nod from the USOC, with local opposition and low poll numbers forcing organizers to spread some venues across the state to gain political support the bid couldn’t muster inside the city.
About half of the 32 venues have been relocated or otherwise shuffled since the original plan was announced. Pagliuca said the proposed games would still be among the most compact in Olympics history, with 23 of the venues within a short radius.
Organizers said they’re still firming up venues for swimming and other indoor aquatic sports, golf and biking events.
They estimate the games will produce at least $4.8 billion in revenues from television broadcast rights, tickets sales, corporate sponsorships and other revenues. They assume nearly $4.6 billion in costs, including $176 million for a temporary Olympic Stadium, $90 million for the athletes’ village, about $754 million to build other Olympic venues and another $132 million to rent other locations.
That leaves about a $210 million in contingency and surplus, organizers said.
Boston 2024 opponents counter that the “surplus” is only achieved through creative accounting that takes some Olympic-related costs off the books. And even the most optimistic view would require billions in public infrastructure and security expenditures.
“The promise of a surplus has been heard in host cities before, but public debt and underutilized venues have been the typical post-Olympics reality,” the No Boston Olympics group said in a statement.
On the significant transportation concerns that have dogged the proposal, organizers suggested investments critical to improving Boston’s oft-maligned transit system can accommodate the needs of the Olympics if they are completed by 2024.
Boston 2024 CEO Richard Davey, a former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation, said the state is already committed to roughly $2 billion for new subway trains and commuter rail and bus service upgrades.
Meeting future demands and the needs of the Olympics would require another $1 billion or so in transportation upgrades on top of that, the revised bid documents show. “We need those projects to be built for a successful Boston in 2024, whether the games occur or not,” Davey said.
More than the previous proposal, “Bid 2.0” touts the long term legacies the games will leave behind in Boston. Among them:
—Jobs: about 4,100 construction jobs over five years starting in 2018; about 54,300 jobs during the operation of the games and another 2,200 post-Olympics jobs.
—Housing: 7,000 apartment units and about 2,700 college student beds for the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
—Neighborhoods: creation of “Midtown,” a new, 83-acre neighborhood south of downtown at the site of the temporary, 69,000-seat Olympic stadium and development of 30 acres at Columbia Point, the proposed waterfront site of the athlete’s village.
—Taxes: about $362 million by 2080, when Olympics organizers assume all tax breaks and incentives would be phased out for “Midtown.”
—Parks: Completion of Boston’s Emerald Necklace, an unbroken ring of green space through the city’s neighborhoods envisioned by famed 19th Century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead.
Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.

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