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Boston Athletic Association

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Boston Athletic Association
Formation15 March 1887 (1887-03-15)
FounderRobert F. Clark
Legal statusNon-profit (501c3)
Headquarters185 Dartmouth Street, Boston, MA 02116
President and CEO
Jack Fleming

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) is a non-profit, running-focused, organized sports association for the Greater Boston area. The B.A.A. hosts such events as the Boston Marathon, the B.A.A. 5K, the B.A.A. 10K, the B.A.A. Half Marathon, the B.A.A. Distance Medley (comprising the 5k, 10K, and half marathon events), and the B.A.A. Invitational Mile.

The mission of the B.A.A. to promote a healthy lifestyle through sports, especially running.


Early years[edit]

The B.A.A. baths, 1889

Among the nation's oldest athletic clubs, the Boston Athletic Association was established on March 15, 1887 under its first president, Robert F. Clark, and with the support of George Walker Weld and other leading sports enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and politicians of the day.

According to Article II of its 1890 Yearbook Constitution, their objective was to "encourage all manly sports and promote physical culture." The B.A.A. clubhouse on the corner of Exeter and Boylston Streets in Boston's Back Bay was completed in 1888, on the present-day site of the 1970s-era expansion of the Boston Public Library. In addition to such facilities as a gymnasium, bowling alley, billiard hall, Victorian Turkish baths and tennis courts, the Association also owned a shooting range and a country club.

Among the active sports of the day were boxing, fencing, water polo and athletics. The club held its first organized track and field competition in 1890 and in 1897 the first famed Boston Marathon took place. A unicorn was chosen as the Association's symbol and appears on the Boston Marathon medals to this day.

The Boston Athletic Association ice hockey team won the American Amateur Hockey League championship in 1916 and 1917 and the United States Amateur Hockey Association championship in the 1923 season.[1][2][3]

The B.A.A. lost nearly 1,000 of its 1,600 members during the Great Depression. In 1935, the organization filed a petition of reorganization under Section 77B of the Bankruptcy Act of 1898.[4] The B.A.A. closed its clubhouse on August 4, 1935 and the building's furnishings were sold at auction later that year.[5][6] The building was purchased by Boston University. The school planned to turn the clubhouse, renamed the Soden Building, into a modern gymnasium, but a city ordnance prevented BU from building a hall with a capacity of over 300 people in this type of building. It was instead remodeled and housed classrooms.[7] The building continued to be the headquarters of the Boston Marathon for two decades and was torn down in 1959.[8]

Boston Garden[edit]

Shortly after the B.A.A. went bankrupt, a number of its members created the Unicorn Club to continue the association's indoor games and the Boston Marathon. On January 3, 1936, the Unicorn Club merged with the old B.A.A. to form a new Boston Athletic Association. Unicorn Club president Clarence A. Barnes was elected president of the revived B.A.A.[9]

Walter A. Brown was elected president of the Boston Athletic Association in 1940 and continued until his death in 1964.[10][11] During this time, the B.A.A. was a commercial enterprise of the Boston Garden, which hosted the association's annual indoor meet.[12] For many years, the B.A.A. Games, not the Boston Marathon, was the association's premier event. It attracted top athletes, including Cornelius Warmerdam, Wes Santee, and Ron Delany. However, as the years went on, attendance declined (dropping from 13,645 in 1960 to 9,008 in 1971) and overhead costs increased, making the meet unprofitable. In 1971, the decision was made to end the BAA meet.[13]

In 1951, during the height of the Korean War, Brown denied Koreans entry into the Boston Marathon. He stated: "While American soldiers are fighting and dying in Korea, every Korean should be fighting to protect his country instead of training for marathons. As long as the war continues there, we positively will not accept Korean entries for our race on April 19."[14]

Brown was succeeded by Will Cloney, who was president from 1964 to 1982.[15]

Current organization[edit]

With the Boston Garden no longer involved with the B.A.A, a new board of directors was formed in 1977.[12] The B.A.A.'s current headquarters is at 185 Dartmouth Street. In 1986, John Hancock Financial Services, Inc. assumed major sponsorship of the Boston Marathon, an affiliation that helped not just the marathon, but also in its year-round community programming until the 2023 marathon, when Manulife's contract was allowed to expire.

The B.A.A. maintains an active running club, organizes the B.A.A. 5K on the weekend of the Boston Marathon, The B.A.A. 10K in June, the B.A.A. Half Marathon in October, and the Mayor's Cup cross country races in Franklin Park in October. The B.A.A. successfully bid to host the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Women's Marathon, which was run on the Sunday before the 2008 Boston Marathon.

In January 2016, the B.A.A. purchased an office building just yards from the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. The office building will be used by the association for the registration of runners and services for various B.A.A. events.[16]

In March 2023, Bank of America took over sponsorship of the Boston Marathon.

Youth races[edit]

The B.A.A. also organizes an annual relay race for Boston-area middle school and high-school-aged runners that takes place on Clarendon Street in Boston.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "B. A. A. Wins Hockey Title". The Boston Globe. April 2, 1916.
  2. ^ "B. A. A. Takes Hockey Title". The Boston Globe. March 25, 1917.
  3. ^ "B. A. A. Wins Title By 2 to 1 Victory". The Boston Globe. March 25, 1923.
  4. ^ "B. A. A. Seeking Reorganization". The Boston Globe. May 11, 1935.
  5. ^ "B. A. A. Closes Doors Tonight". The Boston Globe. August 3, 1935.
  6. ^ Nason, Jerry (November 7, 1935). "Strip the B. A. A. Under Hammer". The Boston Globe.
  7. ^ "Modern Gym Plans Abandoned by B. U.". The Boston Globe. April 15, 1935.
  8. ^ Lewis, Frederick (2005). Young at Heart: The Story of Johnny Kelley, Boston's Marathon Man. Cambridge, MA: Rounder Books. p. 142. ISBN 9781579401139. Retrieved 2 April 2023.
  9. ^ "Clarence Barnes Elected President of Boston A. A. at Reorganization Meeting". The Boston Globe. January 4, 1936.
  10. ^ "Brown and Lapham Follow Footsteps of Famous Fathers". The Boston Globe. April 24, 1940.
  11. ^ Marvin Pave, Boston Globe, April 17, 2008: Legacy on the line
  12. ^ a b Concannon, Joe (October 14, 1982). "Cloney Decries Loose Structure of BAA". The Boston Globe.
  13. ^ Nason, Jerry (February 10, 1974). "Cloney sees no comeback for late, lamented BAA". The Boston Globe.
  14. ^ Sport: Banned in Boston. Time, February 12, 1951.
  15. ^ Griffith, Bill (January 18, 2003). "Will Cloney, was race director of the Boston Marathon; at 91". The Boston Globe.
  16. ^ Phelps, Jonathan (2016-02-04). "BAA buys property near Marathon start line in Hopkinton". MetroWest Daily News. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  17. ^ Youth Programs, B.A.A. Website

External links[edit]