Power: Can Soccer Save Chester?
Ominous as that sounds, Sakiewicz insists his fellow Keystone investors have fully embraced their civic responsibility. “This is going to sound schmaltzy and corny, but we all look at this project as something more than just a real estate project or a sports project. Yeah, there’s the moneymaking part of it. We’ve done that throughout our careers,” he says. “This is an opportunity to leave a legacy and to really make a difference in a community that’s been kicked up the backside in the worst way.”
The deal that brought soccer to Chester would be impossible today, just two years after it was made. In 2010, with purse strings drawn tight and tensions high, the $85 million dedicated to the Philadelphia Union and its new home is even more valuable, its weight that much greater. And so is the burden on the team, its owners and its partners to do much more than win soccer games.
WILL TRIPPLEY COULD have been the Union’s first homegrown player — a son of Chester playing for his city. With no soccer in the school district, Trippley found the sport through a club team one of his friends had joined. He progressed to traveling squads, and then enrolled at the prestigious Shipley School. His state team won a national championship. Trippley graduated and went off to college in Lancaster County, but didn’t like it. So he came home, for college and soccer, to Widener. On Easter Sunday 2004, before playing his first game for his new school, Trippley went to the corner store, the way he always did. He found himself caught in a gunfight. Trippley died at Crozer Hospital — a son of Chester, born and raised, murdered and buried, in his hometown.
Pat Trippley Demiranda, Will’s mother, is a Chester lifer. In his memory, she created the William Trippley Youth Development Foundation, which began as a summertime soccer camp and has grown into a league. Last year, Demiranda found herself with a new partner — the Philadelphia Union, whose community outreach chief, Rob Smith, was president of the storied FC Delco soccer club when her son played there. Smith works for the Union, but he has an office at the Chester board of education while he’s helping to create a soccer program for its schools. Union staffers volunteer in the community, and worked a food drive over the holidays. They hope that through their efforts with folks like Demiranda, more kids, like Trippley, will find soccer to be transformative, and that one day, those kids won’t need to leave Chester to feel safe or to realize their potential.