clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What if PPL Park had been built in Wilmington?

New, 5 comments

Following on from Matt Reppert and Barry Evans' fantastic articles considering the What If's of PPL Park being built at the Sports Complex in Philadelphia and Camden Riverfront, I wonder what if it was built down in Delaware.For starters, it probably wouldn't be called "PPL" Park.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Location:

The most obvious location would be at the Wilmington Riverfront, near where the Carolina League Wilmington Blue Rocks play baseball. Daniel S. Frawley Stadium most likely wouldn't be a suitable venue for soccer since there are no outfield seats (and besides, look at all of the issues that New York City FC are facing with playing matches in Yankee Stadium). There is plenty of open land just to the south of the stadium, so that's most likely where the new stadium would be placed. There's a new hotel that just opened adjacent to Frawley Stadium, so out of town visitors could stay right near the stadium. There's also a few restaurants and an IMAX Movie theatre, so there are things to do for people who come out of town besides seeing a match. That being said, there's precious little land in the immediate area for practice fields, although in the surrounding suburban areas there's available land for practice and training facilities.

Building Costs:

The land for Frawley Stadium was bought for $300,000 and the construction cost was an estimated $6.1 million in 1993. $300,000 is roughly $490,000 in 2015, so it's safe to say that the land for the stadium would be somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million back in 2007 adjusting for inflation and property appreciation - there wasn't much of anything there when Frawley Stadium was initially built, however by 2007 it was pretty much as it is now minus the hotel. The costs for building the stadium were reported to be $120 million, however it may have been less expensive to build it in Delaware due to there being no sales tax on things like construction materials.

Sponsorship:

One thing to remember is that PPL energy is not available in Delaware. The local power monopoly in Delaware is Delmarva Power - a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, which also runs Pepco (Washington DC) and Atlantic City Energy (South Jersey). It's very possible that we might all be watching soccer at Pepco Park instead of PPL.

As far as other sponsors for a kit sponsor, it's very likely that Bimbo would still be the main kit sponsor. Bimbo has a long history of sponsoring soccer teams in Mexico and Central America, and is still located in the Philadelphia area. There is also a large Hispanic population in Northern Delaware, which would most likely already know the Bimbo brand.

That being said, I'll go with the Sports Complex and Camden scenarios and name some possible Delaware-local sponsorships for either the kit or the stadium. DuPont is synonymous with Delaware, so that is a natural fit, although they have had to cut back on workforce and are moving their corporate headquarters out of the City of Wilmington to a suburban location. If they were unable or unwilling to put their name and logo on the jersey, other large employers in Delaware are AstraZeneca, JP Morgan Chase, and Barclays, who occupies several buildings in the Riverfront area near where Pepco (PPL) Park would be. And let's not forget that Dogfish Head beer out of Milton, Delaware is now a sponsor for the Philadelphia Union - and probably would have been on board sooner if the team played in Delaware.

Public Transport:

Wilmington has a very busy train station that services both SEPTA's R2 and Amtrak lines near the Riverfront, however it's a 20-30 minute walk from the station to where the stadium would be. People coming in by train would need to either walk it or take a cab (which would probably be pretty expensive) since DART (Delaware's public bus system) doesn't currently run on the weekends. One would imagine that would change though for Saturday matches during the summer.

Parking and Traffic:

For folks driving to the match there's already a decent amount of parking, but there's really only one way in and one way out of the Riverfront area now. Now it is adjacent to Interstate 95, but a new ramp would need to be built - just like the PA 322 ramp that drops people off right at the current location. There is the issue though of the location of where the ramps would need to go. It would be most difficult to add on and off ramps to the southbound lanes. Currently on the west side of Interstate 95 is a residential neighborhood, as well as some of the busiest train tracks in the Northeast. Not only does SEPTA use this stretch south of Wilmington as the R5 goes all the way to Newark, but it's a critical link for Amtrak between Boston, New York, and Philadelphia to Baltimore and Washington D.C. On the east side is the Russel Peterson Wildlife Refuge, which is protected wetlands. Now it's possible that this could be worked around, but it would be very difficult and time consuming (and most likely very expensive).

Another issue is that Interstate 95 just north of Wilmington is only two lanes in each direction and tends to back up in the city during the week due to the amount of people who live in the suburbs and commute to the city to work. Interstate 495 would not be much help, as it lies on the other side of the Christina River from Interstate 95 at that point. It's possible that Interstate 95 could be widened to three lanes (it's currently five lanes from the Interstate 295 split to the Delaware Route 1 interchange), however that would be a lot of investment by the taxpayers in the First State that they may or may not be interested in paying. Coming from New Jersey, it would be possible for people to take either the Commodore Barry Bridge or the Delaware Memorial Bridge, depending upon where they come from.

Tailgating:

With the ample parking space that's currently available (and most likely would be added in), tailgating would most likely not be an issue. And for those that aren't interested in tailgating, there are pubs such as Timothy's Riverfront Grill and an Iron Hill Brewery right there that I would imagine would be packed during game days. It is unfortunately on the opposite side of Wilmington for folks to go to Stoney's Pub - a Delaware soccer institution.

Local Links and Fundraising:

The Sons of Ben's mailing address is in Claymont, and the Bearfight Brigade's club Bearfight FC is based out of Wilmington. Both groups have members in the First State, and have done charity work for A.I. Dupont Children's Hospital in Wilmington.

Safety:

Wilmington has recently been named "Murder Town, USA" by Newsweek magazine, due to the high rate of violent crime - almost five times the national average. It's also known as a high-traffic area for drugs, and there's a heroin epidemic that's been going on since the 1980's. That being said, there are safe, well-to-do areas of the city. The Riverfront is constantly monitored by police, and there's always a healthy police presence in the area during Blue Rocks games.

Drawbacks:

Wilmington is a hike for those who live in Philadelphia, and even more of a hike for those that live in the Lehigh Valley. It'd be interesting to see if those folks who currently come from Allentown, Scranton, Lancaster, Reading, and other far away points would make the trek to Wilmington. It would also put the Union in the same class as the New York Red Bulls, who don't play in the state that's on the name of the club.

All in all, Wilmington would be a decent destination for the Union. It's only slightly farther than Chester, and while it does present some challenges it would have been a great place to catch a match. Then again, as a resident of the First State I'm a bit biased.

So what do you think? Would Wilmington have been a good site? A bad site? What other site would be better? Let us know in the comments section below!