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How New Balance Created The ‘Gateway To Boston,' While Transforming Athletes And The Community

The Track at New Balance at Boston Landing is the latest athletic-focused element of placemaking.

The 15 acres of land sitting alongside the Massachusetts Pike in Boston’s Allston-Brighton neighborhood have seen many uses in the last century. Once a stockyard that led cattle down to the area’s Market Street, the area was transformed into a train station and railyard and then again into a manufacturing and industrial hub. In the early 2010s, it found itself once again in need of reinvention.

This is when Jim Davis, the owner of Boston-based sports footwear and apparel manufacturer New Balance, had a vision. New Balance was in need of a new headquarters, and he wanted to build something that would not only highlight the brand, but infuse new life into the community and set the foundation for brand partnerships for years to come. 

The result is Boston Landing, a massive mixed-use real estate development that opened in 2015. Not only is this development home to New Balance, but also the Warrior Ice Arena, which is the training facility for the Boston Bruins, plus a training facility for the Boston Celtics, a commuter rail station, an apartment complex and, now, The Track — a 450K SF facility featuring a music venue, beer hall, the New Balance Sports Research Lab and a 200-meter oval track unlike any other. 

Jim Halliday, president of New Balance Development Group, spoke last month at Bisnow’s Boston Sports, Entertainment and Retail event, which was held at the track and brought together senior management of the Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots and New England Revolution to discuss the intersection between sports, entertainment and real estate.

At the event, Halliday mentioned that a major part of Davis’ vision was to create a space that would foster a strong connection between the community, the New Balance brand and the brands that mean the most to the city of Boston. 

“What really hits home for us is when you’re driving into the city from the west, you’ll see those lined-up logos for the Celtics, the Bruins and New Balance welcoming you to what has become the gateway into the city from the western suburbs,” Halliday said. 

Tom Carleo, vice president of Running and Footwear Innovation for New Balance, said that the sportswear industry is changing, and today it is all about consumers’ emotional connection to a brand. The facilities at Boston Landing have been designed to enforce the “heart piece” of what the New Balance brand means to athletes of all types and how it can help them perform better. 

“The sports research lab, thanks to its proximity to the track, makes it incredible from a running perspective,” Carleo said. “We can take athletes prior to their run, do precise measurements of their body, and allow them to come up here to the fastest track in the world. Then, they come back to the lab fully fatigued and we translate that data not only for them, but for the masses of people that are out running and training every day that want to be happy and they want to be healthy.”

The Track at Boston Landing

The Track, along with its 50K SF, 3,500-person music venue, Roadrunner, Broken Records Beer Hall and the 17K SF New Balance Sports Research Lab, features, naturally, a track. This is not an average running track, however. Jim Davis, Halliday said, wanted to develop a track that would set world records at its very first event, on March 15, a goal that New Balance announced as part of a "Go Big or Go Home" campaign, designed to showcase to runners just how fast the track is. 

The ​surface is designed to manage shock absorption while the lane configuration balances the impact of centrifugal force. There is a separate warm-up track, and the complex also features separate courts for a variety of sports, including basketball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, cheerleading, field hockey and more.

At the March 15 event, a women’s team that New Balance assembled set the world record for a distance medley relay team. 

At Bisnow’s event, NESN Dining Playbook Executive Producer Jenny Johnson, who moderated the Placemaking With Boston Sports panel, noted that New Balance has long been known for being a leader in forging creative partnerships. 

Rich Gotham, team president and alternate governor for the Boston Celtics, agreed, pointing out that the Celtics partnership with New Balance goes beyond the hundreds of thousands of cars that now see the New Balance, Celtics and Bruins logos each day as they drive past Boston Landing. He said it has become a true real estate and commercial partnership. 

“It is a commercial real estate partnership where we put together a plan to build a practice facility together and then a long-term lease to go along with it,” Gotham said. “But we’re also a commercial partnership, where they sponsor the team and are the naming rights partner of the facility.” 

He added that when he heard Davis’ vision, it seemed a little “pie in the sky” because the area that is now Boston Landing was so barren. But today, it is a reality, and he said none of it would have been possible without a unique creative partnership between the brands. 

“If you don’t have that kind of partnership, you just can’t get it done,” Gotham said. “We couldn't have done this on our own — we couldn't have achieved what we have with our practice facility, which is probably the best in the NBA, without the partnership with New Balance.” 

Halliday said that along with hosting world-class athletes, it was important to the Davis family that the facility also serve as a key spot for community outreach. Coming off its opening week, the facility hosted its first annual 1906 Boys and Girls Club basketball tournament. New Balance invited eight of the city of Boston's clubs, as well as the club in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to participate. 1906, he explained, is not only the year that New Balance was founded, but also when West End House, the facility where the Allston Boys and Girls Club is located and where this event was first held, was also founded. 

Looking ahead, there are two more projects set to be completed in Boston Landing: 60 Guest Street, which will be developed by Lendlease as a life sciences facility, and the upcoming Boston Landing hotel. 

“Our core values and culture are what allowed New Balance to be a success,” Halliday said. “We applied this same approach to developing a project like Boston Landing — to not only succeed on real estate principles but to also connect back to the New Balance brand, our local Allston-Brighton neighborhood and the city of Boston.” 

This article was produced in collaboration between NB Development Group and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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