The Colorado Rapids' stadium project cleared a major hurdle with Tuesday's passage of a $64 million bond issue on the Commerce City, Colo., ballot that will fund improvements to the roads and utilities surrounding the Prairie Gateway site that will become the Rapids' home in 2007.
The issue passed by a large margin, with 67 percent of Commerce City voters approving of the bonds. Rapids Governor Charlie Wright said the lopsided vote is encouraging to the club.
"It's an amazing margin to me," Wright said. "I think that's an overwhelming level of support, so we're very happy about that."
It should be noted that the Rapids won't touch a dime of the $64 million the voters approved of spending Tuesday, as none of that money will go toward building the stadium itself. Instead, that money will be used for improvements to the roads that surround the stadium site: Quebec Street between I-270 and Highway 2 and 56th Street between Quebec Street and Yosemite. Quebec Street will be widened from two lanes to four in some places and from two lanes to six in others, and 56th Street will be widened as well. The bonds will also fund improvements to utilities in the area, including water and sewer lines, sidewalks, landscaping and drainage.
Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which owns the Rapids, will contribute an additional $64 million to fund to construction of the stadium itself, the youth soccer complex that will surround the stadium and other commercial development to be included in the project. That commercial development is expected to pay off the voter-approved bonds.
"The exciting thing about that is it's a big improvement for the citizens of the city unrelated to soccer, and on top of it, you get a beautiful new soccer stadium and commerce development in Commerce City," Wright said.
The bond issue is just the beginning for the Rapids stadium project. In the coming months, KSE and the club will work on site development and design and getting all of the necessary permits in order. Wright said he expects groundbreaking to take place in the late summer or early fall of 2005, with the stadium being completed in a little more than a year.
"We're very committed to opening the season in 2007 and not having a close call," Wright said. "We could probably have announced that we wanted to make the end of 2006 and gone crazy and cut corners and tried to open the stadium sooner, but our intent is to have a wonderful facility done the right way and ready for the opening of the 2007 season."
When the Rapids open their new stadium in 2007, they will become the seventh MLS team to play in a soccer-specific stadium. The Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy already play in soccer stadiums, while FC Dallas will open their new stadium in Frisco, Texas, in 2005. The expansion Club Deportivo Chivas USA will start play at The Home Depot Center in 2005, and the Chicago Fire and the MetroStars are expected to open soccer-specific stadiums in 2006.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.