Five Years In, Union's PPL Park Hasn't Sparked Anticipated Nearby Development
The Union's PPL Park "remains an island among vacant land and dilapidated buildings" five years after its opening, despite the fact that the MLS stadium was supposed to be the "centerpiece of an economic renaissance for the struggling city" of Chester, Penn., according to Laura McCrystal of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The Union currently are "preparing to build practice fields next to the stadium on land earmarked for the envisioned development, and plans are underway to renovate a building nearby that will house the Union's corporate offices." But the $7M projects "have caused frictions to surface between the team and the city -- and have underscored the challenges of bringing large-scale private development to a financially troubled city." Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz said, "The business environment here continues to be inconsistent." Chester Mayor John Linder: "It's frustrating sometimes to wait when you need something to happen right now, but I'm hopeful and optimistic that this is a signal that some of these other things will come." McCrystal reported the city and team "point to a poor economy as a barrier to development in Chester." Still, the stadium "has not been the anticipated boost to Chester's economy." More than 18,000 fans "pack PPL Park during games -- and most immediately leave town when the games are over." Linder: "Our goal is to continue to make this a place for businesses to come and develop." McCrystal noted when the practice fields are completed, the next phase of development "would include renovation of a building next to the Wharf at Rivertown, an office building near the stadium." Sakiewicz said that the Union "would move their corporate offices ... into the renovated annex building." However, further development "isn't on the horizon, even as the economy has improved" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/27).