Soccer Team Could Kick Off $500M Investment for Chester, PA

Yesterday’s announcement that Chester, Pa., will host Major League Soccer’s new Philadelphia team could bring as much as $500 million in development to the struggling city.  Officials confirmed Thursday afternoon that soccer league’s 16th franchise will start playing in an 18,500-seat, $115 million stadium by 2010. The venue will be the centerpiece of a 60-acre parcel on the Delaware River waterfront near the Commodore Barry Bridge. Details are as yet undetermined, but at full buildout, the complex is expected to incorporate entertainment, retail, residential and office components. The state of Pennsylvania has earmarked $47 million for the project, and Delaware County and Chester will contribute another $30 million. The team has a significant commercial real estate link; leading the soccer team’s ownership is Jay Sugarman, chairman & CEO of iStar Financial Inc.  The project could build on the success of Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack, another attraction on the Chester waterfront, which opened in Sept. 2006. “I think it’s likely, if investors and developers can find ways to capitalize on revitalization,” explained Carl Dranoff, CEO of Dranoff Properties Inc., a Philadelphia-based development company. Dranoff spoke from his experience as a pioneering developer in a nearby hard-luck city–Camden, N.J., which, like Chester, is experiencing a waterfront rebirth.  Dranoff suggested that revitalizing Chester’s waterfront will require significant investment in infrastructure, such as a light rail system and expansion of the city’s sewage system. He added that success might also call for a quasi-public agency, similar to one established by Camden. That agency could provide a one-stop shop to coordinate development, he said.