David Beckham’s proposed Miami MLS expansion franchise not only faces opposition to its stadium plans, but also an uncertain soccer fan base in South Florida, with mixed opinions on whether a team would be a success — hold on, we interrupt this speculation by talking heads to see how an actual MLS stadium has worked out in another city:
In announcing $47 million in state funding for the project in 2008, Gov. Ed Rendell went so far as to say it would “change the face of Chester forever,” the axis for development that would include housing, a convention center, office and retail space, and a riverside promenade on the city’s historic waterfront.
Today, with the Philadelphia Union in their fifth season, PPL Park, in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge, remains an island among vacant land and dilapidated buildings.
This is a problem, the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, because “more than 18,000 fans pack PPL Park during games — and most immediately leave town when the games are over.” This is a common problem for the smaller cities that have built MLS stadium in recent years — see also Harrison, N.J. — and though Chester Mayor John Linder says he hopes that someone will build restaurants or something that will encourage fans to stick around after the game, it’s tough to see anyone wanting to open major retail businesses just to get the foot traffic from a league that only plays 17 home games a year.
Miami, obviously, isn’t Chester, and has plenty of restaurants. But it’s a worthy reminder that even MLS teams that sell lots of tickets may not necessarily bring an economic windfall for their cities.