Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Deja Vu all over again in Chester

Here we go again.

A confession here: A few years ago I got a phone tip from an anonymous caller wanting to know if I had heard anything about a group looking to build a horse-racing track in Chester.

I tried not to let my emotions show through the phone as my eyes rolled back in my head. I told the caller we’d check it out.

"Yeah, right," I snickered to myself after I got off the phone. "Sure, they’re going to build a horse track in Chester."

I walked out into the newsroom and approached the reporter who was covering Chester for us at the time.

"This is going to sound bizarre," I told him, "but have you heard anything about a group looking to build a horse-racing track in Chester?"

He looked at me like I had seven heads.

"Check it out," I said. He did not look amused. Without saying it, I could tell what he was thinking: "Why are you wasting my time with this kind of wild goose chase."

A few hours later, the sheepish reporter stuck his head into my office.
"Uh, you know that thing about the track in Chester?" he said. "There might be something to it."

Today, not only is there a racetrack in Chester, there also is the glittering Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack.

I was a non-believer for a long time.
I had a stock response.

"When I see Wendell Butler (the mayor of Chester) with a set of those huge scissors cutting the ribbon to the place, I’ll believe it."
I was wrong.

Now it could be happening again.

County Council Monday formally announced a deal to put the county in business with private developers who are looking to build a soccer stadium in Chester. The idea is to use the facility to lure a Major League Soccer team.

Does it seem far-fetched? Not anymore. This is not the same Chester.
Yep, right there on the front page of today’s newspaper is an artist’s rendition of what the stadium would look like, hugging the waterfront in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

It’s not far from the racetrack.
In a lot of ways.

This is not pie-in-the-sky. It is big bucks. The county is talking about funneling $30 million into what could be a $115 million stadium project.

Imagine that, a major league sports franchise calling Chester home.

As they say down the street at Harrah’s, don’t bet against it.

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