Since the Philadelphia Union kicked their first ball in Chester in 2010, there’s been talk of the city’s high school bringing back a soccer program.
During a Town Hall event at the TruMark Financial Club on Thursday night, Union Chief Business Officer Tim McDermott shared that while still not finalized there have been ongoing talks about how the Union partnering with the school district to bring that dream to fruition.
“We’re going to be creating a program where we are putting forth financial resources, basically fund the creation of a high school program for them,” McDermott said. “There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that’s going on right now. I think there’s more we can do to continue to be a great partner with Chester — we owe that to the city, we owe that to the school district — this is just one more step we can make in the right direction.”
McDermott said he would love to see the high school team playing games at Talen Energy Stadium, something they are also currently working through with school officials, which include his former high school principal, Juan Baughn, who is the superintendent of Chester Upland School District.
McDermott’s response followed a question Jim Curtin first answered about developing players who live in the city the team calls home.
“It is time that there is a kid that is the first from the Chester area to have the opportunity to thrive in that environment,” Curtin said, referencing the Union Academy and YSC Academy. “There’s good young athletes all over different areas and sometimes the inner city is underserved and they don’t get the opportunities that maybe you do on the Main Line, that’s the reality of things but I can say from my experience the fight and having a little bit of a chip on their shoulder goes a long way.”
McDermott, who answered questions from the public along with Curtin and new Sporting Director Ernst Tanner, also talked about the team’s efforts to reach out to youth clubs in the region and about where things currently stand with the areas surrounding the stadium, which make up a mile-long campus on the riverfront now controlled by the club.
On the youth club front, McDermott said the team is going to be hiring a general manager to do outreach with clubs in the Delaware Valley to better connect the team with the coaches, players and families in those clubs.
“I still don’t think that we’ve done a good enough job connecting to all the youth soccer clubs in the Delaware Valley,” he said. “And what I mean by that is I want those kids, those parents and those coaches to love us, to want to wear the blue and gold.”
As for the campus area surrounding the stadium, McDermott mentioned renovations that are happening at The Wharf building and a long-term plan to improve the way the campus looks.
“When you come off the ramps it just needs to look different and we’re going to have to figure out how we do that, how do we change the landscape so when you come down here it feels different,” he said.
McDermott also mentioned that they are waiting to hear from government officials details about how the property’s status as a qualified opportunity zone may help incentivize and attract additional development from outside investors. He floated one idea of a YSC Sports-type complex being constructed on the site.
“We actually are in the process of trying to go through and kind of vetting out what this looks like, we’re very close to hiring an architectural firm that will also do some work with us in understanding what might be some business ventures that could thrive here and again aesthetically what do we do to make this area kind of come to life a little bit more,” McDermott said. “It’s a 10-year plan so to speak, it’s not going to change overnight but we recognize that we have this land, we think there’s opportunities to get business ventures to populate on the land here.”
Tanner and Curtin also fielded questions about player development, the playoff run the team is currently on and more. Video of the event is available on the team’s Facebook page.