SBJ/May 21 - 27, 2007/This Weeks News

Red Bulls won’t play at new stadium till 2009

The New York Red Bulls will not play at their new MLS stadium in Harrison, N.J., until 2009 because environmental cleanup at the 12-acre construction site has taken longer than expected.

“Realistically, I don’t think Red Bull will be able to move in until April 2009,” said Nick Sakiewicz, president of AEG New York. “The building will be completed at the end of 2008 or early 2009.”

Oil cleanup at the site has delayed work on a project that
has already seen design changes.

The project had been scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2008, and the Red Bulls hoped to begin playing there next season.

“Until it’s 100 percent certain that it’s delayed beyond 2008, we won’t talk about that,” said Marc de Grandpre, Red Bull New York managing director.

Though publicly the delay is attributed to environmental cleanup, privately, sources say the project has been delayed by a dispute over financing.

When Red Bull purchased the MetroStars in 2006, the company also bought a 50 percent stake in a $100 million stadium AEG planned to develop. But when the energy drink company pushed for additional suites and a 360-degree roof to cover all the seats, the price rose to $150 million.

The $50 million difference left AEG and Red Bull at odds over who should cover the extra cost, a matter that sources say still hasn’t been resolved.

Sakiewicz denied that finances had anything to do with the delays at Red Bull Park, saying the delays were exclusively tied to two “hot spots” discovered at the site where oil had been dumped years before. He said there were also three layers of concrete to excavate, which slowed things down.

“We found little surprises along the way,” Sakiewicz said. “You do as much investigation ahead of time as you can, but once you take the building down and get under the foundation, you never know.”

The contractor, completing one of the largest environmental cleanup projects in New Jersey history, found the oil, and it was a lengthy process to collect it and truck it off site, Sakiewicz said. The entire site is about 85 percent clean now.

The cost of cleaning the site rose to $13 million because of the oil, double the initial projection, Sakiewicz said. The city of Harrison and the state are paying for the cleanup as part of their $100 million commitment to finance infrastructure improvements.

The stadium opening could be pushed back further if the next winters are severe and hinder construction efforts, he said.

“These are all things unforseen in the construction process,” Sakiewicz said.

Red Bull New York’s front office sold season tickets this year in part by saying buyers would receive “priority rights for seats in … Red Bull Park, scheduled to open in 2008.”

De Grandpre said a delay of the project would not change season-ticket holders’ priority status. “We’ll make sure anyone who’s bought into the stadium or its opening is rewarded,” he said.

A delay means the team likely will remain in Giants Stadium for another season. The team has an option on its lease there for 2008 with the New Jersey Sports Exposition Authority. The reported $3 million lease will increase 5 percent if the team returns next year.

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