The National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York, was once a place where fans could come and take in the sights and learn about the game's history. That site however was shut down in 2010 when, according to the U.S. Soccer website, "the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum announced its plan to change its current operating model to address its financial challenges." The contents have since been stored in a warehouse in Hillsborough, North Carolina, however with soccer's resurgent popularity in the United States, the search has been on for a new home. At the beginning of the month, Washington Post soccer reporter Steven Goff reported that the Poconos was a possible site for a new Soccer Hall of Fame. The rumored site - in Monroe County just east of East Stroudsburg along State Road 209 - seems to be the right location to try and get this project up and running.
I was able to contact Christine Meinhart-Fritz, Director of the Monroe County Planning Commission, who graciously answered some of my questions about the proposed site and what it would mean for Monroe County. She pointed out that "Locating a national athletic hall of fame within the county would have tremendous significance for the County's residents and its economy. Given examples of other national athletic halls of fame, it is evident that such a facility can become a keystone fixture within rural communities." She pointed out the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and the Little League Baseball Headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, as small communities that have all reaped the benefits of having something of the scope of the Soccer Hall of Fame in their community. Benefits that include "increased recreational opportunities for residents, support for local soccer clubs/organizations, and increased notoriety as a tourism destination."
When I asked about those potential benefits for Monroe County, Ms. Meinhart-Fritz pointed out that it would "increase publicity for the county and its recreational opportunities, rural aesthetics and scenery, and role as a tourist and recreational destination. It will be an economic generator, as visitors to HOF will need lodging, gas, and other goods and services. It will also increase development activity in the Eastern portion of the County along the Marshall's Creek/State Road 209 corridor, increase youth soccer activity, increase enrollment into local soccer leagues/clubs/schools, increase the number and size of annual and/or new soccer tournaments in the area, and increase the number of County youth involved in recreational/healthy activities." She also pointed out that the economic benefits of the project would help the county by creating "employment opportunities for local residents as well as support for local soccer clubs/organizations" and that it would also help with the "strengthening of the county's tourism industry, role as a tourist and recreational destination, and economic generator."
As for any potential pitfalls, the only one was "typical issues related to infrastructure strain during tournament events, such as increased traffic." She also said that "updating SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance) & Zoning in order to account for any unique characteristics of the development" was a potential legal hurdle. She also cautioned for us not to get too far ahead of ourselves. "The group interested in locating the Soccer Hall of Fame in the Poconos has recently given a presentation to Smithfield Township; however, it is still too early to speculate on any official statement to move forward," she said.
There's an estimated 28.7 million people that live within a 100 mile radius of the site, including the New York and Philadelphia Metropolitan Areas, whereas a site in Frisco, Texas would only have about 6.5 million people within that same 100 mile radius, which only includes the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area. One can't help but feel the least bit excited for the prospect of such a historic project right in our back yards.
|Stadium||Approximate Distance||Approximate Drive Time|
|Red Bull Arena||68 miles||1 hour 8 minutes|
|Yankee Stadium||82 miles||1 hour 19 minutes|
|PPL Park||113 miles||1 hour 48 minutes|
|RFK Stadium||230 miles||3 hours 34 minutes|
|Gilette Stadium||266 miles||4 hours 12 minutes|