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25,000 Fans Fill New Red Bull Arena Saturday
Night As Red Bulls Defeat Santos FC 3-1
The MLS Red Bulls Saturday night christened their new Red Bull Arena with a 3-1 win over Brazilian club Santos FC "before 25,000 screaming fans in their final tune-up" for the MLS season, according to Frank Giase of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Red Bulls D Mike Petke: "I can't put it into words. There came a point this week that I had to stop smiling and realize we had a game tonight. ... It was a great day for the New York franchise, MLS in general and soccer in this country" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/21). In New Jersey, Stefan Bondy reported the "shouts echoed around the arena, summoning an atmosphere previously unknown to the Red Bulls and forever renouncing the soccer dungeon of Giants Stadium." The franchise "survived an opener with no hiccups and plenty of convincing arguments," as the "stadium, atmosphere, perfect weather and the Red Bulls' performance carried the night." U.S. Gold Medal-winning skier Lindsey Vonn, Saints RB Reggie Bush and German club Bayern Munich Honorary President Franz Beckenbauer were in attendance for the game (Bergen RECORD, 3/21). In N.Y., George Vecsey wrote Saturday's opening was, "in some ways, more revolutionary than" those of the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in '09, as Red Bull Arena is "an entire new locale, an entire new feel." The stadium "glitters in an industrial wasteland just east of Newark, not far from Manhattan." MLS "needs to grow its own identity," and soccer now is "finally connected to the center of the universe." The "only slight flaw has been removed," as N.Y. now is "finally perfect" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/21). Red Bulls Managing Dir Erik Stover said the stadium is a "game-changer for the organization and this sport" in the U.S. (N.Y. POST, 3/21). In N.Y., Filip Bondy wrote Saturday was a "glorious evening for soccer" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/21).
LOOKING AHEAD: In a front-page piece for the Newark STAR-LEDGER, Rohan Mascarenhas reported Harrison, New Jersey, officials are "hoping Red Bull Arena ... will serve as the crown jewel and jump-start Harrison's much-hyped $3.5[B] redevelopment, a project that's been stalled because of the recession." The project, launched 13 years ago, calls for "transforming roughly 250 acres around the stadium ... into a village of 6,500 housing units, 4 million square feet of commercial space and 1 million square feet of retail space." Red Bull Arena "glistens from across the skyline, but sticks out like a sore thumb in a neighborhood of vacant warehouses and empty lots." Rutgers Univ. School of Planning & Public Policy Dean James Hughes said that Harrison officials are "hoping the stadium will pique visitors' interest in the town and improve Harrison's image, much as the Prudential Center did for Newark." Mascarenhas noted with Red Bull Arena completed, Ironstate Development and Advance Realty Development, "two major invested developers, feel they have the momentum to continue." Ironstate plans to "break ground in May on 277 rental units, as well as 15,000 square feet of retail space, while Advance hopes to start construction on at least two hotels, a wellness center and 1,800 residential units by the end of the year" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/20).