In a unique public-private partnership, Northeastern University and the City of Boston will build together a state-of-the-art athletic complex that will expand recreation opportunities for both Northeastern students and Boston residents.
Northeastern will invest more than $26 million to transform the city-owned William E. Carter Playground on Columbus Avenue. The shared public park—the first in Boston to be named for an African-American—is a hub of community and youth sports activity in the city’s South End and Roxbury neighborhoods.
The innovative project will provide city residents and the university community with upgraded athletic fields, tennis courts, a new children’s playground, and additional open space, and will improve the existing connection to the city’s Southwest Corridor Park.
Northeastern also will incorporate its existing Camden parking lot in the renovation, increasing the park’s size by nearly 25 percent and making it among the largest city parks or playgrounds in the South End or Roxbury.
“This park will transform the Columbus Avenue corridor into a place where people live, learn, and play together,” said Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun. “It serves students and Bostonians well and in equal measure. That was our goal, and together we achieved it.”
The two-year project, funded entirely by Northeastern, will replace the current playing field, which suffers from poor drainage and irrigation, with a state-of-the-art artificial playing surface. The enlarged field area will include regulation-size soccer and football fields, and will incorporate two baseball/softball diamonds. The project also will replace aging tennis courts with new courts and introduce a children’s playground, complete with new play equipment, as well as expanded open space.
“I am deeply grateful to Northeastern for this generous contribution and their partnership with our city,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “The transformed Carter Playground will open up new opportunities for Boston’s young people and for the future of the neighborhood.”
Additional enhancements will include improved infrastructure, such as irrigation and drainage, and field lighting and scoreboards. The university will place a temporary air structure—or “bubble”—over one of the playing fields during the winter months to extend the availability of the facility for both students and city residents.
The park is a critical public space along the city’s Columbus Avenue corridor and is used frequently by countless community organizations, including South End Pop Warner, South End Little League, Cathedral High School, and the Carter Tennis Association, as well as City Year and Mayor Walsh’s early literacy program, ReadBoston. It also serves as an important space for Northeastern’s club and intramural sports programs, which serve nearly 6,000 students each year.
“Carter Playground is a vital public space that our community relies on not only for our own personal recreational use as residents, but also to help serve the more than 1,000 boys and girls from the South End and Roxbury who participate in our baseball organization each year,” said Chip Batchelder, a longtime South End resident and board member of South End youth baseball. “To have Northeastern University, which has been a great community partner, come together with Boston Parks and Recreation to revitalize this barren space with a multimillion-dollar face-lift is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The project, which received broad neighborhood support at community meetings, is a component of the university’s Institutional Master Plan and was included in the plan’s multi-year review process.
The city and Northeastern have established a shared-use agreement that will regulate use of the new park. The university will schedule activities during its designated times, and the Parks Department will issue permits for facility use during other times through the city’s typical permitting process.
Stantec, the firm contracted to design the site, has followed a series of goals that include providing multi-functional spaces, maximizing active recreation uses, accommodating users of all ages, increasing accessibility, improving play value of the playground, restoring a water feature, providing drinking fountains, retaining existing trees and increasing shade, and providing improved walking paths.
The Carter Playground restoration is the largest undertaking to increase recreation capacity at the university since the addition of the Marino Center nearly two decades ago. The park rejuvenation also is the latest in a series of investment and redevelopment projects that Northeastern has launched along Columbus Avenue in recent years.
In the fall of 2009, the university opened International Village, a 1,200-bed residence hall near the intersection of Tremont Street and Melnea Cass Boulevard. In December 2013, the university announced plans to build the pioneering Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex on Columbus Avenue, which is slated to open in 2016. And last fall, the university helped secure a $20 million federal grant to make significant infrastructure improvements at the MBTA Ruggles Station.