Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chester could be Major League

Go ahead and laugh. They're going to put a professional sports franchise in Chester? Sure.

Someone is going to spend $150 million to build a stadium for a pro soccer team? In Chester? You're kidding, right?

No, we're not. And before you chuckle and move on, remember this.

Stranger things have happened.

I specifically remember the first time a phone tipster called and asked
me if I had heard anything about a group of people who wanted to put a
horse-racing facility in Chester.

First, I laughed. Then I considered slamming the phone down. Then I
listened. The guy didn't sound demented.

I walked out into the newsroom and asked the reporter covering Chester
for us at that time if he had heard anything about a group looking to
locate a horse track in Chester. He sniffed to determine if I had been
drinking. Then he sort of rolled his eyes. I asked him to check it out.

He sort of grumbled something about wasting his time.
A few hours later he stuck his head in my office and sheepishly
announced that there might be something to this horse-track story.

Today, Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack is a glittering attraction on
the Chester waterfront.

Now city and county officials are looking to add pro soccer to the mix.
First they have to build a stadium. Then they have to lure a franchise
from Major League Soccer.

Since Harrah's is right down the street, I say don't bet against them.
The county will hold a meeting next week with a group of investors and
officials from Major League Soccer.

This is not just happy talk. One look at the names already tied into the
plan proves that. One of the big movers behind the investor group is Jim
Nevels of Swarthmore. If the name sounds familiar, it's because he has
been the head of the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia, as well
as boss of the Swarthmore Group financial firm. He has the blessing of
Gov. Ed Rendell on the move to bring the new facility, and team, to
Chester. And Nevels apparently has added another big name to his roster.
That would be Jay Sugarman, CEO of New York-based iStar Financial. He is
expected to be at the Sept. 6 soiree in Chester. Also expected to be
there will be representatives from the Buccini/Pollin Group Inc. Again
that name should be familiar. They own the Wharf at Rivertown, one of
the hubs of the spectacular new growth along the Chester waterfront.
One of the proposed locations for the soccer stadium is located between
the Wharf and the Commodore Barry Bridge.

Chester is on a certifiable roll. This afternoon Widener University will
break ground on a $50 million project called University Crossings, at
14th Street and Providence Avenue. It will include a variety of retail
and residential facilities, including a bank, restaurant, convenience
store and Chester police substation.

It's a word that has been bandied about concerning what has been
happening in Chester for the last couple of years. It's referred to as a
"renaissance."

Now the city might be about to become a major league town.

Don't laugh. It's happened before.

*
Moving Beyond 10,000 Losses: An occasional look at why it's so
difficult to be a Phillies – hell for that matter a Philadelphia –
sports fan
. Here's a thought. When is the last time the Phillies and
Eagles played on the same day, and nobody cared about the Eagles game?
Yep, the Phils are certifiably hot. They've now taken three straight
from the Mets and will go for the sweep this afternoon.

*
The Daily Numbers: 150 million dollars. That's the price tag
expected to put a new stadium on the Chester waterfront to house a Major
League soccer franchise.


50 million project expected to break ground in the city today as
Widener University kicks off its University Crossings development.

7 members of the Penn-Delco School Board who have left their
positions in the last 14 months. And that doesn't include the fomer
superintendent. Think something is wrong there?


3 Delco school districts with schools that did not meet the
Annual Yearly Progress benchmarks under the state's PSSA testing. They
are Upper Darby, Chester Upland and William Penn.

237 pills found in the truck of Britt Reid, son of Eagles coach
Andy Reid. He now faces new charges of driving under the influence, even
as he awaits sentencing in a road-rage incident in which he brandished a
gun. This kid needs help. But that's part of the problem. He's not
really a kid. He's 22. And spinning out of control.

4 more people killed on the streets of Philadelphia yesterday.
That brings the city's homicide total to 276 for the year.

1 teen still missing in the Delaware River after a boat
overturned off National Park, N.J. He is believed to be a recent West
Deptford High School graduate.

9, age of boy charged in the beating death of a toddler at a day
care center in Woodbridge, N.J.

10 years that have passed since the death of Princess Diana in a
car crash on the Labor Day weekend in Paris.

3 straight wins for the Phils over the Mets. They go for the
sweep this afternoon.

3 games back of the Mets in the N.L. East standings, where the
Phils sit after winning four in a row.

3 games back in the wild-card race, where the Phils sit as the
Padres refuse to help out. They won again last night. Good news is that
if the Phils win again today, the are assured of gaining a game in the
wild-card race. That's because the Padres and Diamondbacks are now tied
for the lead in the N.L. West.

*

I Don't Get It (with apologies to Jack McCaffery): Delaware has
now recorded its first suspected case of 'water rage.' A guy on a
fishing boat apparently got upset with another group on another vessel,
thinking they were getting too close to his 'turf.' He apparently then
snagged several of their fishing lines. The guy pleaded guilty to a
single charge of impeding lawful fishing. I don't get it.

*

Today's Upper: Some serious kudos to Harris Elementary in
Southeast Delco School District, and Main Street School in Chester
Upland. They are among the state schools posting the biggest gains in
fifth-grade math in the state PSSA testing.

*

Quote Box: "It is fair to say that a number of our existing
stadiums are more regional and located outside of the major cities and
they have worked fine."
-- Major League Soccer President Mark Abbott, on a proposal to bring a
franchise to Chester.

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