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Soccer: a sign of good times

Stadium kicks off revitalization efforts

Created date

July 27th, 2010

[caption id="attachment_13538" align="alignright" width="280" caption="A blueprint for urban revitalization, PPL Park is home to the Philadelphia Union. The soccer team s first season in the new stadium began in June and will continue through the end of November."][/caption] Chester was once a town rich in industry and history, but in the last 20 years, it s been in economic despair because of the decline in manufacturing. However, Governor Rendell and other state officials are optimistic about Chester s recovery, and this optimism isn t rooted in far-off ideals; instead, it s grounded in something much more realistic its people.

Cheering on opportunity

Kicking off the economic recovery efforts is the Philadelphia Union, the state s new Major League soccer team. Some may say investing $47 million in a soccer team and stadium is risky; but Rendell proposed the project would create at least 360 full-time jobs, something the citizens of Chester would welcome with open arms. It took more than two years and millions of dollars for the soccer stadium, called PPL Park, to be built along the Chester riverfront, where it opened on June 27. In just a short time since, the stadium has been seen as a footprint to other ventures. When the project was first announced in 2008, Rendell said, Parts of Chester s riverfront district have been vacant for far too long, but Rivertown at Chester will change that because it will give birth to hundreds of new jobs, new shops, new places to live, and new things for people to do. There will be countless opportunities and a positive, long-lasting impact throughout the region. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources invested money to build the greenway that creates a walking path along the riverfront, and the Department of Environmental Protection has put money toward cleaning up the site not only for the stadium but for future development alongside it. According to Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs and Development Jackie Parker, this matches the vision the governor has had all along, to accommodate many different things to stimulate economic development. It s not just a stadium but a comprehensive, mixed-use opportunity.

Stadium has ripple effect

Sure enough, businesses are opening up, buildings are being rehabbed, and things in general are getting better in the town of Chester. Rendell s vision is serving as a model for other urban revitalization in surrounding boroughs. In the Harrisburg area, old buildings have been rehabbed for Harrisburg Community College s technical skills corridor. In Scranton, the 500 block of Lackawanna has been completely renovated to blend commercial and residential spaces. This is the perfect example of the mixed-use philosophy for revitalization. In almost every [smaller] city, we ve seen some of that spark, Parker says, because the governor s mission was not only to help the Phillys or the Pittsburghs of the region but to help smaller cities to be revitalized by some key-impact project. Seating up to 18,500, the stadium has been said to be at the core of the renaissance on the river in Chester. Fans have been cheering since PPL Park s June 27 opening and will likely continue, as the Philadelphia Union s season runs through November 21. Maris Grove sJohn Toutkaldjian a former soccer player, coach, and referee plans to see what the fanfare is about. Though he watches mostly European soccer and thinks if athletes in this country were not playing football, basketball, and baseball but [instead] playing soccer, we would be a world-class soccer nation, he hopes to watch the Philadelphia Union play in the stadium...on home soil.

Uptick hits retirees

There s more evidence that the local economy is on the rise: People in the Philadelphia area are selling their houses and moving, including many retirees. In the past few months, we ve seen a change in direction in the economy; we have experienced an uptick in activity on many of our campuses, especially our two Philadelphia communities,Maris GroveandAnn s Choice, says Tom Neubauer, director of sales forErickson Living, which manages 19 retirement communities nationwide. Our customers have lived through many ups and downs throughout their lives, and now, more than ever, they want to make sound decisions that make sense, both today and into the future, says Neubauer. Choosing to move toMaris GroveorAnn s Choiceachieves that objective while adding more living to their lives. And when you think about it, isn t that what we all want?