Here we go again, nine years after the Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union played its first game in the team’s new Chester, Pennsylvania’s home stadium, there is a plan to develop the land around the stadium. Since the stadium’s opening not much has happened on that land. Chester needs to show an economic improvement plan by 2021 or Pennsylvania could declare a financial emergency in Chester and take over the city’s finances. The stadium’s parking lots could offer a solution if a stadium village can be developed. The Union’s ownership wants to build a stadium and entertainment and health and wellness center.
In 2008, it was announced that a facility for a Philadelphia area Major League Soccer team would be part of a $414 million project funded by Pennsylvania, Delaware County and Chester taxpayers designed to revitalize the city that was once a vibrant shipping port and housed a piece of the auto industry. The thinking was that the stadium would be the major component that would see retail business and residential housing built around the 18,500 seat stadium. The place opened in 2010. Two years later, Chester elected officials finally conceded that the project was not working out. Eleven years after the stadium plan was approved and nine years after the opening, Chester has seen little evidence that a $414 million project to make the city vital again has worked. Sure there is an annual payment by the Union’s owners of $140,000 in lieu of taxes and some part time jobs have opened up but the plan fizzled. The stadium is surrounded by empty parking lots. Chester pegged development and economic growth to a stadium which is never a good idea. Chester city planners were not the only ones who get that wrong, there are cities around the world that bet on sports and lost.