HARRISON, NJ (AP) With backhoes and bulldozers rumbling in the distance, the New York Red Bulls formally broke ground on a $140-million stadium Sept. 19.
It’s the latest and most expensive of eight facilities built or in construction for a Major League Soccer team.
With a “European-style” roof covering all 25,000 seats, 53 luxury suites situated 12 rows from the field and other amenities, Red Bull Park is scheduled to open in July 2008.
“It will be the best stadium in the league, by far,” said Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the former owner of the Red Bulls and half-owner of the new stadium. “We had to do that in New York.”
AEG, which began looking to build the stadium six years ago, owned the MetroStars until March, when it sold the team and a half interest in the stadium to Austrian energy drink maker Red Bull.
AEG also owns the Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, D.C. United and Los Angeles Galaxy, and built the $150-million Home Depot Center complex — which includes a tennis stadium, cycling velodrome and other facilities — for the Galaxy in 2003.
With surrounding infrastructure, Red Bull Park will cost $200 million and be the centerpiece of a $1-billion construction project that will include office space, retail outlets and housing across the Passaic River from Newark.
“This is a big piece of their brand,” said AEG New York President Nick Sakiewicz, who was the MetroStars’ general manager from 2000 to 2005 and is the point man on the new stadium. “They have walked in the shadow of the New York Cosmos for so long. This is a big step out of that shadow once and for all.”
The MetroStars/Red Bulls have played all their 11 years in Giants Stadium, where the Cosmos — with soccer luminaries such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer — played in the old North American Soccer League from 1977 to 1984. Its artificial turf playing field, 80,000 capacity, cost and limited availability while sharing the stadium with the Giants and Jets, have long been complaints of the soccer team.
“We finally have a home in the most important market in the world,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.
Leiweke, whose Galaxy has made a profit since it opened HDC three years ago, predicted the Red Bulls will become profitable once their new stadium is finished.
“This is what we wanted,” Red Bulls Managing Director Marc de Grandpre said. “Without the stadium, we wouldn’t be here.”
Red Bull Park will join Columbus Crew Stadium (1999), Pizza Hut Park (FC Dallas, 2005) and Toyota Park (Chicago Fire, May) that already have opened. The Colorado Rapids and expansion team FC Toronto will open new stadiums next year and Real Salt Lake broke ground in August.
With an abandoned and soon-to-be demolished pipe factory in the background, hundreds of people — many sporting Red Bulls jerseys and others wearing bull horns — looked on as team, league and local government officials threw ceremonial shovels of dirt in front of a soccer goal.
“It’s an exciting time for everybody,” said Red Bulls Goalkeeper Tony Meola, who was born in neighboring Kearny. “When I was growing up, the dream was to play in Giants Stadium. This wasn’t even a thought. I love playing in Giants Stadium. But it will be nice to have a place to call home.”