Gold Shovels For Red Bulls

The first scoops of dirt were shoveled September 19th as ground was broken – finally – on a $200 million, 25,000-seat stadium for the New York Red Bulls major league soccer team in Harrison, N.J.

When completed, Red Bull Park will be part of a $1 billion redevelopment project on the Passaic River.

The Red Bulls, formerly the MetroStars, have been playing their games at cavernous Giants Stadium in East Rutherford since 1996. The stadium project has already been in the works for six years and the team expects to play its first match at the new digs in July 2008.

The soccer-specific stadium is the latest to be built and managed by Anschutz Entertainment Group, even though AEG sold its interest in the team and half its share in the stadium to the team’s namesake energy drink company.

“This stadium is going to be the crown jewel of soccer stadiums in the United States and North America,” said Red Bulls Managing Director Marc de Grandpre, according to The New York Times. “It will cost a little more than we first thought because of the roof covering the fans, but we feel it will be an electric environment.”

AEG and Red Bull are contributing $100 million to the project, while Harrison and Hudson County will kick in cleanup and parking garage construction cost with an initial $40 million bond sale that has already been completed.

“This is really a celebration for soccer,” former Red Bulls GM and AEG New York prexy Neil Sakiewicz told the Times. “I knew we had made it when I met recently with Harrison’s chief of police and found out he is a carded referee with U.S. Soccer. It has been six long years, but we got it done.”

The stadium will boast 53 luxury suites, located just 12 rows from the pitch. A training facility location is expected to be announced in the next six weeks.