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Pro soccer deal in Philadelphia near


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Here's the top story of the day, Philadelphia Independence Football Club is very near from winning their MLS bid. In fact, I should say that the deal is now in the bag.


Philadelphia wins support for MLS franchise plan

Fri Sep 7, 5:12 PM ET

Philadelphia has emerged as favorite for an expansion slot in Major League Soccer after the league's commissioner lent his support to plans for a stadium and team in the city.

"It's not an 'if' question; it's a 'when' question," MLS commissioner Don Garber told the Philadelphia Daily News after meeting with local officials and a group of possible investors.

MLS currently has 13 teams and will add another franchise next season when the San Jose Earthquakes return to the league.

Two further expansion slots are planned and Philadelphia, which already has a fan club to support a team in the city, has long been considered a favorite.

St Louis, a traditional stronghold for soccer in the United States, is another city which would be an attractive location for a team while Florida has been without an MLS club since the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny left the league in 2001.

The Philadelphia plan envisages a soccer stadium built in nearby Chester City.

'The Sons of Ben', a fan club who have been vocal in their support for MLS action in Philadelphia, have created an online campaign where fans can sign up to interest in a future season ticket.

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Pro soccer deal in Chester near, investors say

By Mari A. Schaefer

Inquirer Staff Writer

A group of investors say they own the site and have the private financial backing necessary for a Major League Soccer stadium in Chester, and believe they will get the state aid and the league approval necessary to complete the deal in the coming months.

The investors own the property south of the Commodore Barry Bridge, and Gov. Rendell's administration says it is willing to provide state aid. A league official said franchise negotiations with the Philadelphia group are in an advanced stage, but cautioned no deal is done.

"The short story here is that this is the beginning of a process one that we hope will come to fruition hopefully within the next number of months," said Donald P. Garber, the league's commissioner.

There are 13 Major League Soccer teams, and the organization expects to issue two new franchises by the end of the year. Those teams would begin play in either 2009 or 2010. Other cities are currently vying for the two available expansion teams according to league officials.

The old industrial site of more than 50 acres in Chester has space for a mixed use development of residential, office, and retail space that would be anchored by the stadium complex. The property is owned by Buccini/Pollin Group, a Delaware-based firm that developed the minor league Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball stadium.

The investors group is headed by Jay Sugarman, CEO of New York-based iStar Financial. The other major investors are Christopher and Robert Buccini and David Pollin; James Nevels, a Swarthmore businessman and former Philadelphia School Reform Commission chairman; and William Doran, a partner at the law firm of Morgan Lewis.

"We have been working on it pretty aggressively for the last six months to a year," said Charles G. Kopp, an attorney representing the investor group. "We are pleased with the reaction we have gotten from the city, county and state."

Over $300 million would be needed for the entire development project. About $170 million, including a $30 million franchise fee, would be for the sports complex including four practice fields, that would be made available for community use, said Kopp.

How much would be private investment, and how much public, has not been disclosed.

"We don't have any exact [financial] numbers," said Andrew Reilly, Chairman of the Delaware County county council. "That is going to be the subject of the [next] meeting."

Garber said that, before the league could award its 16th franchise, the funding from the state, county, city as well as an ownership group would need to be finalized.

"These moving parts need to come together," Garber said. He said they would like to have an agreement in place by December or the Chester site would "fall down the list."

Reilly said the county would have to have some type of security, such as ownership of the stadium, so the taxpayers would be protected in case the project failed.

Gov. Rendell has already voiced support of a Chester soccer team.

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Soccer commish: A Philly-area team picking up steam



Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber yesterday gave his strongest indication yet that Philadelphia will have its own soccer franchise by 2010 - and that its stadium will be built in nearby Chester City.

"We believe that a team in Chester will serve to really enrich the lives of the citizens of the city, but also the citizens of the community and this region generally," Garber said after meeting with Delaware County officials and a group of potential investors.

The group is led by Jay Sugarman, chief executive of New York-based iStar Financial, and includes James Nevels, departing chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and founder of the Swarthmore Group, and real-estate developer Robert Buccini, an owner of the Buccini/Pollin Group.

The league is negotiating simultaneously with the investors and public officials to secure financing for a $120 million stadium complex that would be built along the Delaware River just south of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester.

Gov. Rendell and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi - the former mayor of Chester - have indicated their support for the project, along with county officials who hope to use it as an anchor for future waterfront development.

Garber said public and private funding must be locked in by early December for a Philadelphia soccer team to play in its new stadium in the 2010 season.

"It's not an 'if' question; it's a 'when' question," he said, referring to the likelihood of an expansion team in the Philadelphia market.

Garber also paid homage to the Sons of Ben, a Philly-based MLS fan club formed in January to build support for a local franchise and more recently the Chester stadium. The group is running an online season-ticket drive to prove that there is demand for a Philadelphia team.

"We couldn't be happier about the news that, hopefully, Philly will be in the next round of expansion," said Sons of Ben co-founder Bryan James. *

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  • 1 month later...

This comes directly from Soccer By Ives.


Philly expansion gaining momentum

October 22, 2007

Good morning folks. It was a pretty good weekend of soccer action, both in Europe and here in the United States and lost in the drama of the final weekend of the MLS regular season was word out of the Philly area that Philadelphia is gaining serious momentum toward being the next MLS expansion franchise.

Delaware County officials have approved $30 million in funding toward a proposed $115 million stadium to be built in Chester, a Philly suburb. Now it appears that MLS and Philly expansion folks are working feverishly to secure more funding that would allow MLS to approve Philadelphia in time to announce Philly as a new expansion club at MLS Cup in a month. It just so happens that MLS Cup is in Washington D.C. this year, just a few hours from Philadelphia.

If approved, Philadelphia could join MLS in 2010, a year after Seattle is set to join the league and two years after San Jose.

Apparently word that Philly was next in line didn't sit too well with people in Portland. MLS commissioner Don Garber went to Portland last week and was promptly booted from a radio show by some pretty amateurish radio guys with a serious inferiority complex (The Garber interview is about 13 minutes and 35 seconds into that clip).

As many of you already know, I'm a big fan of adding Philadelphia for obvious reasons. The rivalries that would be created with the Red Bulls and DC United would be good from the start and the Philly area is one of the best areas for soccer in the country. Yes, places such as St. Louis and Portland have their strengths but for my money Philadelphia needs to be in the league ASAP.

What do you think? Are you happy about the Philadelphia news? Disappointed? Do you think the league is ready to add three teams in three years? Should it add more?


Don Garber's interview with Portland Radio station:


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