Tufts pays $2 million for new MBTA station naming rights

A sign promoting the MBTA Green Line Extension Project is pictured on April 17th, 2018. Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Green Line Extension station on College Avenue will be named “Medford/Tufts,”  which Tufts announced on Jan. 2 it had paid for at the cost of $200,000 a year for 10 years.

Rocco DiRico, director of government and community relations at Tufts, explained the process which led to the inclusion of Tufts’ name in that of the new station.

“My office worked with Tufts operations staff, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the City of Medford on the naming of the Medford/Tufts Green Line station.” DiRico wrote in an email.  “This was a collaborative process to come up with a name that best represented the area around the station while strengthening our relationship with the City of Medford and the MBTA.”

DiRico manages the university’s relationships with the host communities of Tufts’ campuses in Boston, Grafton and Medford/Somerville. 

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak emphasized the connectedness between the station’s stakeholders promoted by the Medford/Tufts name.

“We have a lot to look forward to as we get closer to completing the Green Line Extension, and ‘Medford/Tufts’ station will play a pivotal role in strengthening connections with the City of Medford, Tufts University and MBTA customers,” Poftak said. 

According to DiRico, this new station will be extremely beneficial to all members of the Tufts community. 

“The Medford/Tufts Green Line Station will have a tremendous positive impact on Tufts University. It will make it easier for our faculty, staff, students and visitors to come to campus using mass transit,” DiRico said. “Finally, the new station will connect our Medford/Somerville campus with our other campuses in Chinatown and the Fenway.”  

However, the convenience that the extension of the Green Line will bring does not come without a financial commitment on Tufts’ end. DiRico explained why he believes the naming rights were worth the cost. 

“Just as local communities have made a financial commitment to ensure the project’s viability, the University is making this investment to contribute to the project’s long-term success,” DiRico said. “Medford/Tufts will be the gateway to our Medford/Somerville campus and this investment will be a benefit to everyone who uses the new station.”

Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations, indicated that Tufts was willing to accept the MBTA charging for the naming rights to the station due to specific costs. 

“This strategic investment in a project of great importance to the University is intended to assist the MBTA in managing the ongoing costs of the new station,” Collins wrote in an email. 

DiRico agreed with Collins, adding that the cost of the naming rights will support the success of the Green Line Extension Project.

“Just as local communities have made a financial commitment to ensure the project’s viability, the University is making this investment to contribute to the project’s long-term success. The scope and complexity of this project required a multi-year, collaborative effort on the part of its supporters,” DiRico said. 

Tufts is not the only Boston area university to have an MBTA station named for them — others include Boston College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). However, these schools did not incur the same price tag as Tufts, because they were named before the MBTA began receiving outside contributions. 

“Boston College did not pay for the naming rights to the station,” Bill Mills, director of community affairs at Boston College, told the Daily in an email. “The station was renamed to Boston College on May 21, 1947, by a vote of the Boston Elevated Railway trustees … after Boston College bought adjacent land for their Newton Campus.” 

In recent years, it has become commonplace for the MBTA to seek support from institutions that will benefit from a new station or renovations, such as Harvard University’s financial support of the planned commuter rail station in Allston, Massachusetts, or MIT’s financial support of MBTA renovations in Kendall Square.

“MIT has not paid for naming rights in the past and there are no plans to do so,” Sarah Gallop, co-director of government and community relations at MIT, wrote in an email to the Daily. “However, MIT is renovating the MBTA headhouse on the south side of Main Street in Kendall and has made significant contributions to transit-related funds through its recent Kendall and Volpe zoning processes.” 

A Boston Magazine article published just after the naming announcement hinted at this decision to acquire the naming rights being fueled by a desire to help Tufts’ brand after the Sackler controversy and the eventual removal of the family name. 

However, DiRico quelled this rumor, defining the distance between the two decisions.

“The negotiations to name the station were underway before the removal of the Sackler name from our Boston Health Sciences campus. The two decisions are not connected in any way,” DiRico said.


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