Power: Can Soccer Save Chester?

After deals and political connections brought pro soccer to Pennsylvania, hopes are high for the Philadelphia Union. But how much can a sport really do?

The Union isn’t faking all the do–gooder talk. But it was circumstances, politics and, of course, money that brought all of the players in the Chester stadium deal together. The civic crusade that followed began as a means to an end. Seven years ago, Nevels didn’t imagine himself as Chester’s savior. He just wanted to own a soccer team. If the Union isn’t profitable, Sakiewicz and Sugarman will move on. Rendell’s and Pileggi’s futures don’t hinge on the team’s success, either.

That leaves the stakeholders with the least influence and the most to lose — the people of Chester. For them, at best, the stadium becomes a multimillion-dollar loss leader that stimulates business and residential growth and looks picturesque on ESPN and Univision. Meanwhile, at a city council meeting in December, more than a hundred people demanded to know why the state can’t commit $5 million to a proposal for a supermarket. Mayor Butler wants to make that happen, too, but it’s out of his hands. All he can do is hope politics and money come together again, and try to keep his constituents focused on the dream rising down by the water.