Bureaucratic Chaos Is Threatening Boston's Reggie Lewis Center

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​By Michael Sol Warren

The Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center is at the heart of Boston’s track and field community. Now, after the sudden firing of its popular director, the future of the facility is uncertain.

Two weeks ago, Roxbury Community College, which runs the Reggie Lewis Center, shocked the Boston track community when it fired executive director Keith McDermott.

McDermott, who worked at the Reggie Lewis Center for 18 years, was well known in the city’s running community for his work to keep the facility open to the public. About 200 people attended the college’s first board of trustees meeting on September 13 to speak out against the decision to fire McDermott.

Roxbury Community College spokeswoman Jordan Smock said that Lorita Williams, RCC’s vice president of advancement and community engagement, has taken over McDermott’s duties and is overseeing the Reggie Lewis Center. 

However, Smock said the school would not discuss the reasons behind McDermott’s firing. 

According to Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker, community speculation is that the college was frustrated by the former director’s actions to prioritize the community over RCC’s needs. Under this thinking, the final straw came in January when McDermott refused to close the center for two weeks during indoor season so RCC could use the facility for college registration.

The facility is a hub for high school indoor track in the region. Richard Kates, the head track coach at Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, Massachusetts and the director of the state indoor meet, said that the Reggie Lewis Center has hosted state indoor championship meets every year since it opened 20 years ago. Kates also said that the facility hosts one or two meets per day between December and March, with practices scheduled before and after the meets.

The Reggie Lewis Center serves as Northeastern University’s home track for indoor season, and the university hosts collegiate meets at the facility. Northeastern spokeswoman Devan Horahan said that the Huskies’ meets at the center will not be affected by the change in leadership.

The Reggie Lewis Center also hosts the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. Global Athletics, the organizer of the meet, could not be reached for comment. Numerous other major meets have been at the Reggie, including the 2015 USATF indoor championships and the 2012 and 2016 ACC indoor championships.

The firing of McDermott is the latest dustup between RCC and the local track community. Last August, the Massachusetts Track and Field Officials Association raised $120,000 for the facility. Now, the money is being held by the Roxbury Community College Foundation, and no one is sure why. RCC President Valerie Roberson has asked the state auditor to investigate what has happened to the money.

State lawmakers are looking to take action on the issue. According to State House News Service, Sen. Mike Rush, a Democrat from West Roxbury, is planning to file legislation that would transfer control of the Reggie Lewis Center from RCC to University of Massachusetts Boston. 

Rep. Russell Holmes, a Democrat from Boston, and Rep. Gloria Fox, a Democrat from Roxbury, have also been working on the transfer plan, which is all but done according to the Boston Globe. UMass Boston officials welcome taking control of the Reggie Lewis Center, and lawmakers apparently made the deal while keeping RCC out of the loop. 

Still, nothing is guaranteed. Because the state legislature is currently only meeting in informal sessions, any kind of opposition would kill the deal.

Michael Sol Warren is a Boston-based freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @MSolDub

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