Sometimes, good things do come in small packages. At least that is what the MetroStars hope.
The team announced Thursday morning the plans to build a 25,000-seat, $100 million stadium in Harrison, N.J. After four years of speculation, the dream is on the verge of reality.
"We've been down a long and bumpy road, but I wouldn't change it for the world," Metrostars president and general manager Nick Sakiewicz said on a conference call Thursday. "It's very gratifying to come to an end and get so much support from the people of Harrison. We're very excited.
Final architectural plans will be presented within 60 days and ground breaking should take place between the middle of October and the middle of November. The MetroStars will play one more season in the 80,000-seat Giants Stadium before moving at the start of the 2006 season.
The Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates the MetroStars, will contribute $30 million to the stadium project. The Harrison Redevelopment Agency and the Advance Realty Group of Bedminster, N.J., are also involved in the $160 million plan to redevelop a 135-acre area. Offices, retail space, 600 rental apartments and lofts, as well as a 4,000-car parking garage are included in the plan.
"We were looking for a project that would make Harrison a place to come to, more than just another stop on the PATH line," said Peter B. Higgins, III, chairman of the Harrison Redevelopment Agency. "We're happy to announce that we have that project and we're happy to have the entire MetroStars organization. This will work to the benefit of all of the parties."
Sakiewicz said that proximity to local railways, ethnic diversity and the residents made Harrison the prime location for a new stadium.
"One of the driving reasons that we wanted to be in Harrison is because Harrison wanted us to be there," he said.
The stadium will be located across the Passaic River from Newark off Interstate 280 and within walking distance of the Harrison PATH station. The stadium will be close to the Ironbound section of Newark, which is comprised of a large, soccer-friendly Portuguese population and Hispanic residents of Harrison, who make up more than a third of the city's population.
While the town of Harrison will own the yet-to-be-named facility, the MetroStars and A.E.G. will be operating the stadium. Sakiewicz said that part of the business plan includes bringing concerts, as well as local college, high school and youth soccer and football to the new venue.
"I can confidently say that in one year that we will be cash-flow positive in Harrison, based on existing attendance figures and new revenue streams," he said. "We will be afforded the opportunity to make a reasonable profit."
The Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy each have soccer-specific stadiums. Dallas, Colorado and Chicago have all announced plans to leave current venues for smaller, newer facilities.
Patrick Mulrenin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.