The year was 2008, and the Philadelphia Union were just hatching out the same egg that new Union mascot Phang came from. Aside from announcing that Philadelphia finally got an MLS team, an announcement came out stating that the city of Chester will be the hometown of this Philadelphia soccer club.
Many die-hard soccer fans weren’t the happiest with that decision, as Chester is known to be one of the worst cities in America. With that being said, many pondered why the team just doesn’t play either in the Linc or in a new stadium in the sports complex? Well just like now, Chester is still in financial trouble, and are just three years away from the state declaring a fiscal emergency and taking over the city. The plan back then, was to take advantage of the waterfront land and build shops, housing, restaurants, and even a supermarket to not only solve the city’s financial troubles but to help end the city’s food location issues.
However after a few major issues, that plan never came to fruition, as only the stadium was built. With not much else to do in the vicinity (aside from gambling at Harrah’s Casino down the road) as well as it not being the nicest of areas, fans would just flock home once the game was done. The Union for the past 10 seasons have done a wonderful job with the activities fans can do around the stadium ahead of the game, but with no where to really eat or hang out aside from the parking lots to tailgate, the Union need to find more revenue driving entertainment places to have around the stadium.
From my own personal experiences, fans will just simply eat and hang out at one of the buzzing restaurants in Delaware, New Jersey, or Philadelphia, and then just head over to the stadium right before the game. The four major teams of Philadelphia (and even the Wings) don’t have this issue, as there are plenty of buzzing dining and entertainment places around the area in and around the sports complex. In fact, Xfinity Live is a place that combines those aspects and thrives every single night. Fans will often head over there after the game to grab a drink, eat, even dance in the various bars that Xfinity Live offers.
Now, with the help of Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, the Union are determined to save Chester’s finances and finally develop some entertainment around Talen Energy Stadium. Mayor Kirkland recently has launched an economic development committee to revitalize the Chester Area. Philadelphia Union Chief Business Officer Tim McDermott is just one of it’s many members. With this power tandem looking for improvement, sights turn to the waterfront to finally develop some businesses around the area once again.
Tim McDermott was named Chief Business in 2010, and was the reason why the Union have a brand new indoor training complex in the Wharf area. He oversaw the renovations of the wharf (that included new offices, dining options, and workout room) and old wharf workshop (now the Union’s indoor training facility). Now after the Chester Waterfront was named a Qualified Opportunity Zone, McDermott is really looking to boost the city’s economy by developing an entertainment and dining are along the waterfront strip.
Chester is also looking on the up and up as a brewery has been planned to open seemingly 50 feet away from Talen Energy Stadium. The brewery from Larimer Beer Company by the name of R&D Brewery and Taproom will be put right next to the stadium. Though the plans are for a smaller brewery/taproom, owner Matt Lindemuth believes they’ll get some big business. The former X-Games Skater quotes, “The stadium sells out every game, 19,000 people,”. “Plus, there are a lot of industrial jobs along the riverfront. We’ll see a lot of customers.”
Now I called Chester home from 2014-2018 as I was a student at nearby Widener University. I have been to dozens of Union games including around six or so when I interned with the club. Being a Chester local for four years, this project needs to happen sooner rather than later. Not just for the Union but for the city of Chester as well. The Union’s goal is to make as much business off the fans as possible, so they can give them things to do and see before or after the game. The city’s goal is to provide jobs and gain an economic boost in an area that could be on the rise.
This entertainment strip won’t just benefit the fans, it’ll benefit the locals as well as college students. The only stuff to really do in Chester for college kids and families is Harrah’s and the Philadelphia Union. Chester is losing out on business because these families and college students would rather go into Philadelphia or even Media to have a fun exciting time. College kids would love to stay more local, instead of wasting money and energy on commuting all the way to Philadelphia.
I for one can’t even imagine the positive impact this waterfront entertainment strip could do not only for the Union, but for Chester as well. The quicker the ground gets dug up, the quicker the city can finally start making a name for Chester once again.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union