For the City of Chester, the stadium - which is projected to cost about $155 million - is just the linchpin of a $500 million development project that could bring rejuvenation and hope to an area that is one of the poorest in the commonwealth.
"The vision is to build a sports and entertainment campus that will put the City of Chester on the global map, bring hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the waterfront, and most importantly be the spark that accelerates the building of the $400 million adjacent Buccini/Pollin development," said Sakiewicz, president and CEO of AEG New York, Inc. "It will be the centerpiece of something special that will benefit the entire community for years and years to come."
Take off the sports blinders for a second and digest that. The soccer stadium is the key to getting a $400 million, privately financed residential, retail and commercial office center proposed by the Buccini/Pollin Group.
BPG, a real estate acquisition, development and management company with offices in Wilmington, Del., New York and Washington, is the same company that used Daniel S. Frawley Stadium - home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks - as the spark to transform that city's stagnant waterfront into a residential, entertainment and commercial megaplex.
Sakiewicz said that during the 2-year construction period (2008-10), more than 2,600 jobs in building trades, apprenticeships and internships would be created from the construction industry.
He projected that almost 900 new annual jobs would be created in the retail and commercial sectors.
And there is no telling how many jobs and dollars the entertainment sector would create for Chester and the commonwealth.
That's certainly the way Chester Mayor Wendell N. Butler Jr. views it, as does Delaware County, which in October pledged $30 million to the development project.
"There is no question that the proposed Major League Soccer stadium will further establish the Chester waterfront as a place to be, and will help kick-start and accelerate the larger retail, residential and office development on the waterfront," Butler said.
"Together these activities will generate new construction and permanent job opportunities for city residents, new opportunities for city businesses and new recreational opportunities for city youth."
The project happening, however, is still dependent on the unpredictable shifting winds of the state Legislature.
There is no question that MLS wants the Philadelphia market to become its 16th franchise, but it won't wait indefinitely.
The St. Louis market, which has reportedly secured funding for a $400 million development project that will feature an 18,500-seat stadium in the suburbs of the Arch City, is ready to jump in as the expansion franchise if Philadelphia misses the penalty kick.
Gov. Rendell is already on the record as favoring the soccer-stadium project.
Still, the legislative session ended last week with the funding proposal still on the table.
But if Rendell and state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a former mayor of Chester, can push through the funding and all the dominoes fall into place as projected, it could represent a stunning example of what bipartisan politics can accomplish.
Pileggi said the state is "very much aware of the internal calendar" MLS has.
He said he agrees that what's "attractive" about the project is that it is not just a soccer stadium, but a "comprehensive waterfront development."
The state contributed hundreds of millions to build Lincoln Financial Field, Citizens Bank Park, Heinz Field and PNC Park, and those stadiums almost exclusively benefit the team owners financially and provide comfort for the fans who attend the games.
That wouldn't be the case in Chester.
"The stadium is not even the majority of the development that is contemplated," said Pileggi, adding that committing state funds cannot be done without due diligence. "It's a total waterfront development project, but it's the type of development that can be difficult to get started. They've been talking about Penns Landing for 10 years."
Unfortunately, with MLS eager to move forward with its expansion plans, the Chester stadium project doesn't have 10 years. It might not even have 10 more weeks.
"The stadium and entertainment campus, the energy it creates and the activity it generates, is the spark that will allow us to begin immediately building the $400 million adjacent development," said Rob Buccini, a founding partner of the Buccini/Pollin Group. "Without the energy and activity, the build-out will be a much slower process and take many years to fully realize."
Reading between the lines, that likely means, no stadium, no adjacent complex, no redevelopment.
I'm not trying to mislead.
There is a large element of this that is strictly about securing a professional soccer team for the Philadelphia region, but the big picture connected to it and the potential benefits that could grow out of it should not be left out of the discussion.
Frankly, it might be the entire discussion.
The question facing the state Legislature: Is $45 million worth a half-billion-dollar project that could bring revitalization and new hope to an entire region for generations? *
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