Boston’s Olympic stadium cost estimate just doubled, if you can believe the numbers at all

Backers of Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid issued a “version 2.0” of their official proposal last week, expanding the plan to include building 12 million square feet of new housing, hotels, and other construction in two neighborhoods, to be paid for by kicking back future city tax revenues from the new development. (Yes, that’s a TIF, though they don’t call it that.) The specific numbers are yet to be worked out with developers, though that didn’t stop bid chair Steve Pagliuca from modestly calling his own plan “the biggest economic development opportunity of our lifetimes.”

Also yet to be determined, apparently, is exactly how such line items as a new Olympic stadium would cost. Or rather, the bid documents give some exact numbers, but they’re nothing like the exact numbers in version 1.0:

The updated proposal to spend roughly $1.2 billion on land acquisition and construction costs in support of the stadium complex and its legacy uses is far greater than the $530 million-to-$660 million estimate first outlined by Boston 2024 in its initial bid to the U.S. Olympic Committee in December…

A Boston 2024 spokesman did not provide an explanation for the cost differences between its initial and updated stadium proposals.

The stadium cost estimates now include $285 million in land acquisition (up from $85 million), $640 million in site demolition and prep work (which seems like an awful lot), and $176 million for construction of a 60,000-seat stadium (which seems way too low, even for a temporary stadium that would later be removed).

If all this sounds suspiciously like numbers that are being fabricated out of thin air, the bid documents — available here — won’t dissuade you from that notion: Like most PR materials, they’re heavier on pretty renderings (many with fireworks, because who doesn’t like fireworks?) than on actual substance. This is about as detailed as the financial cost breakdown gets:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 8.13.02 AMWith documentation like this, it should probably come as no surprise that the average Olympics has run 179% over budget, with losses for government agencies typically running into the billions. And yet, every city’s Olympic committee insists that its bid will be the first to buck this trend. Boston’s plan includes taking out insurance policies to guard against cost overruns, but like so much else here, the details have yet to be worked out — maybe in version 3.0.

4 comments on “Boston’s Olympic stadium cost estimate just doubled, if you can believe the numbers at all

  1. Somehow the cost of the media center shrunk to about 1/20th of the original estimate, too, even though they don’t have a site for it.

  2. On a smaller scale, I read in the Dayton Daily News this morning about a proposed tax hike for a “self sustaining” sports complex in Lebanon, OH. They might increase the county lodging tax by 1% to finance construction of the $10 million dollar facility. They have a neat chart showing all the taxes (county, state, municipal) that hotel guests pay at checkout in these parts, including Cincinnati. State government has been involved including presidential candidate Gov. Kasich signing the budget allowing the county commissioners to raise the hotel tax without “risk of a referendum”. The best quote is from a local Tea Party leader ” I don’t think the government has any place in sports marketing.”

  3. The media center had better cost a lot less if it doesn’t actually exist in physical space!

  4. The Boston 2024 lost all of its credibility last winter and has never regained it. The figures do keep rising, the lanes of road to be reserved for five weeks keeps increasing, the list of corporate sponsors has yet to be revealed, the so-called insurance policy has yet to be found (what insurance company is going to insure something that is destined to be a payout for them?).
    The Legislature is passing a Bill prohibiting the use of State Funds; however, it has loopholes. It allows for new Legislation to permit funding. The Mayor has yet to say he will NOT sign the IOC document promising that Boston will pick up cost overruns.
    This is a good article and very worth noting as we continue our struggle to prevent the Olympics from coming to Boston.