Stadium plans come together for Metros

Nick Sakiewicz doesn't need to be reminded about how long the Harrison stadium project has taken.

Four years, seven months and 27 days.

But the long awaited announcement of a new soccer-specific home for the MetroStars finally became a reality Thursday afternoon on the front steps of the Harrison Public Library, right across from a soccer field that Sakiewicz played on as a youth.

That's where local politicians, including acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey, AEG and MetroStars officials and MLS Commissioner Don Garber made the announcement some Metros fans never thought they'd hear.

"We're going to build the biggest and best soccer palace that there is in this country and I can't wait to get started," said a relieved Sakiewicz, who is the president of AEG NY/NJ.

The question of who will pay for the stadium -- and more importantly for New Jersey politicians -- if the taxpayers would assume any financial burden, was answered definitively by MetroStars owners Anschutz Entertainment Group.

AEG will completely fund the cost of the 20,000-seat stadium, between $75 and $90 million. The town of Harrison will pay for the cost of the acquisition of the land and its cleanup -- at approximately $25 million and Hudson County will pick up the bill for a 1,500-vehicle parking garage, at about $38 million.

Originally, AEG was going to pay for about $40 million of the construction.

AEG president Tim Leiweke said the recent sale of D.C. United had nothing to do with their decision to pick up the bill for the entire stadium construction.

"Money is not our issue," he said. "We're very fortunate to have the chairman (Phil Anschutz) that we have, he's very passionate about the sport and very passionate about these soccer-specific stadiums and quite frankly he's grown very found of Harrison."

The stadium, which is set for a June 2007 opening, is part of the redevelopment of 275 waterfront acres across from downtown Newark. It is expected to be the fifth soccer-specific stadium built, following Columbus Crew Stadium, The Home Depot Center and Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, and the Chicago Fire's new home, which is slated to be opened in April 2006.

Plans were announced last month for a soccer-specific stadium to be built in Milwaukee, if the city is selected by MLS for expansion.

"I think it's going to be the best stadium we have," Garber said of the stadium plans in Harrison. "And that will be replaced by the next one after that. This is going to be a world class stadium. This is a world class market."

And the stadium was critical to the MetroStars' future, Garber said.

"Without this stadium we had a tough time imagining how we would stay in this market," he said. "It doesn't take anything away from the Meadowlands, but we didn't belong in somebody else's building when we're the third and sometimes even fourth tenant."

Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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