Philadelphia area gets Major League Soccer's 16th team
CHESTER, Pa. (AP) - Major League Soccer officials announced plans Thursday for a new team in the Philadelphia area that will hold its inaugural season in 2010, ending a three-decade hiatus for outdoor pro soccer in the region.
"It took us 12 years to bring the world's most popular sport, truly the sport for a new America, to the City of Brotherly Love," said MLS Commission Don Garber.
Previously home to a pair of men's soccer franchises in the 1970s, Philadelphia had been the largest city in North America without an MLS team. But thanks to a revitalization plan that includes a new, soccer-only stadium and vigorous lobbying by a fan club that predates the announcement by two years, soccer is back in Philadelphia.
"Timing in life is everything and the time is right today to bring soccer to Philadelphia," said Nick Sakiewicz, CEO and operating partner of the new franchise.
"We always had Philadelphia, the Philadelphia market, on that list of cities that we wanted to bring a team to," Sakiewicz said. "For 12 years we tried to figure out a way to do it and never could until today."
While the team will carry Philadelphia's name, the stadium will be located in Chester, an economically struggling city southwest of Philadelphia. State officials hope the franchise will be a key part of a $414 million revitalization effort for the waterfront of the beleaguered city.
"This is about more than a soccer team," Sakiewicz said. "This is about opportunity for the people of Chester."
The announcement, held in a former power plant next to the stadium site that has been converted into commercial space, featured four large projection screens playing a slideshow of MLS highlights accompanied by blaring music. At the end of the presentation, the shades of massive windows were raised to reveal the site, currently little more than a craggy, marshy lot under the Commodore Barry Bridge.
"This will be a fantastic facility," Garber said. "This will redevelop the region. This will bring pride to all the people who live in this state."
Earlier this month, Gov. Ed Rendell announced $47 million in public funding for redevelopment of the 60-acre site, dubbed "Rivertown." The funding package includes $25 million for the 18,500-seat, soccer-only stadium and calls for a convention center as well as commercial, retail and residential space. A Harrah's slots casino is already up and running at a nearby harness racing track.
At Thursday's announcement, Rendell noted that there has been criticism of using public funds for the stadium, but he is confident the riverfront redevelopment will mean new jobs.
"We believe it is a good economic deal and we can demonstrate direct economic development that will return a lot to taxpayers," Rendell said.
But beyond that, the impact of the sports franchise on the troubled city's psyche could not be quantified, Rendell said.
"If this sports stadium serves as the catalyst to revitalize the city of Chester, you won't be able to put that in an economic analysis, it won't be in a balance sheet."
Garber said the league's success in its recent expansion - sellout crowds for the new Toronto club and hot-selling tickets for the Seattle franchise that is set to play in 2009 - made him confident MLS would be able to serve as the linchpin of a daunting redevelopment effort.
"A $400 million economic development project is going to be driven by an MLS team," Garber said. "And that, I think, shows that after 12 years the league finally is a significant player in the world of professional sports and the sports culture in this country."
Garber's announcement was greeted by a raucous standing ovation from the Sons of Ben, a fan club formed in a downtown bar in 2006 with the goal of bringing an MLS team to the region.
About 100 Sons of Ben attended the announcement, wearing blue and yellow scarves that match the colors of Philadelphia's flag, and carrying a sign bearing a skeletal likeness of Benjamin Franklin.
The scarves, which the organization presented to the ownership group, read "Philadelphia 2010" on one side and the slogan, "Kick Start Chester" on the other.
Rendell said the group's enthusiasm should be credited for helping convince the league that the region deserved a team.
"We're thrilled to feel like we're contributing to history," said Sons of Ben president and co-founder Bryan James. "For it to come to this day, it's amazing."
The group began in 2006 when another franchise went up for sale and there as a chance it would move. When that fell through, James and his cohorts turned their attention to lobbying for an expansion franchise. They started out with five members and expanded to about 80 last year.
"Today, it was 1,609 (members) when I left the house," James said.
Other than a brief interlude by a women's pro team that was part of the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association, the area has not had a pro outdoor team since the Philadelphia Fury of the North American Soccer League ended its three-year stay in 1980. Previously, the Philadelphia Atoms played in the city from 1973 to 1976.
On the Net:
Philadelphia MLS team: http://www.mlsphilly2010.com
Major League Soccer is coming to Philadelphia.
Posted 29 February 2008 - 04:23 PM
Or what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
Posted 01 March 2008 - 02:44 AM
Pregame pints 15. Ticket to the game 60. Carlsburg, Meatpie and Crisps 16. Seeing an American score on another American at a Premier League match in England; Priceless.
"i just like to be careful right b4 i go on a first date with a chick. too much weird comments on facebook and im dead from the start" - JayDelight
"There's nothing good about my team, my team is shit!" (Harraby Lad to Alexi Lalas about Carlisle United)
And then, just like that, his halitosis and jersey were gone. -Bobby Boswell on Bobbygate
Posted 06 March 2008 - 06:27 AM
Posted 06 March 2008 - 01:57 PM
Having spent the last six years in Philly I gotta say, they will come to MLS in a serious manner. And having gone to a number of Fire/NJ matches, I gotta say that you're gonna hafta step up. Your supporters groups do alright, but your crowd support on the whole...is weak. Don't be suprised if thier average crowd turnout surpasses yours. And thats in a market much smaller than the NJ/NY metro area.
Having spent far too much time working in Philadelphia over the past ten years. They got nothing. Besides the Eagles... fan support in that town is shit.
Posted 06 March 2008 - 06:31 PM
That is other people. There is nothing we can do about that.
Your supporters groups do alright, but your crowd support on the whole...is weak.
Posted 23 February 2009 - 06:46 PM
Posted 28 June 2009 - 01:55 AM
Just kidding. Come on Philly!
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