PPL Park could be Chester's new cash cow.
As we've explored here before, there are a whole slew of issues that affect a municipality when they bank on an MLS stadium as their savior.
Harrison, desperate for development, banked on Red Bull Arena and now blame the stadium for the city's financial woes, conveniently ignoring all the evidence that a stadium wouldn't bring about the desired effects. And there was that whole recession thing, too.
As it turns out, Harrison isn't the only city in rough shape. Chester, Pa., home of PPL Park and the Philadelphia Union, and Bridgeview, Ill., where the Chicago Fire play in Toyota Park, are both hurting. The culprit, according to the cities in question, is the MLS team the city hosts.
The stories differ in some important ways, but overall, people are looking to the local MLS stadium as the reason why the city's finances are in the crapper.
First, our friends down the Jersey Turnpike, the Union.
According to a Philly.com story, PPL Park was supposed to be part of a $500 million development project touted as the city's saving grace.
It hasn't exactly happened that way. When the economy tanked, it took the ambitious plans for "Rivertown" with it. Today, it consists of a gleaming soccer stadium and parking lots - some unpaved.
And more than four years after (former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed) Rendell predicted that Chester would become a first-class city, Chester remains...Chester. Last month, two men were convicted of murdering a 19-year-old man, wrapping the body in trash bags and dumping it a few blocks from PPL Park.
The Philly.com story cites Chester's mayor as going on the record in not wanting to "tamper with success," but a new tax proposed by the city would levy a 10 percent tax on tickets and a 20 percent tax on parking.
"These taxes would effectively put us out of business over time," Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz said after Sunday's game. "We gross about $20 million a year and these taxes would amount to about $2 million on top of what we pay right now."
Meanwhile in Chicagoland, the story of Toyota Park has all the markings of Chicago-style politics sans the voting dead as exposed by the Chicago Tribune.
The scope of the Tribune article is a bit big to summarize here - it touches on state law, local politics and ethics regulations, and is well worth the read if you're into political theater - but essentially, where political insiders have benefited, local taxpayers have had to foot the bill, with property taxes tripling since the stadium opened in 2006.
Regardless of where the stadium is, the story remains the same. A city banks on redevelopment and their plan fails them, either because of the economy, politics, municipal mismanagement, all or a combination of the three, throwing the burden of the failure at the feet of citizen, who will have to feel the pain.
Rent seeking. It's an ugly, ugly business.