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MetroStars secure stadium deal

Anschutz Entertainment Group, the MetroStars parent company, has agreed to fully fund the proposed $90 million MetroStars Stadium in Harrison, paving the way for construction to begin on the team's 25,000-seat home in the southern part of the tiny Hudson County town. Sources with knowledge of the agreement confirmed the deal late Wednesday.

Previously the Metros came close to securing stadium deals on several occasions, only to have both New Jersey and Hudson County officials balk at past proposals that included contributions ranging from $15 million to $30 million from AEG. A recently proposed deal which would have made AEG partners with the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, with each footing $45 million of the deal, stalled in recent weeks. With few options remaining, AEG decided to take advantage of the $28 million it made from the recent sale of MLS champion D.C. United and secure the stadium in Harrison.

The entire deal will be officially completed once the Hudson County Board of Freeholders meets on Aug 12 and votes to approve $80 million in county-issued bonds that will help pay for the purchase of land and construction of a 1,500-space parking facility adjacent to the stadium. Sources close to the deal say the vote is merely a formality, with a ceremony to announce the stadium deal scheduled for this afternoon in front of the Harrison library. Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey is scheduled to attend.

Construction on the project will begin after Harrison reaches an agreement to buy the land from the owner of the property near Cape May Street in Harrison, Isadore Spiegel. The MetroStars are hoping to have the stadium complete for the start of the 2007 season, but a more reasonable timeline would have the stadium open by June of 2007.

The agreement makes the MetroStars the fifth team to secure its own soccer-specific stadium deal. The Columbus Crew was the first team to have its own stadium when they opened Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999.

The stadium is part of a $1 billion redevelopment project in Harrison that will include retail, corporate and residential properties in a portion of the town previously occupied by abandoned industrial facilities.

With the stadium deal now complete, the MetroStars are expected to finalize an agreement to build a $10 million corporate office and practice facility in Pequannock, a project that was put on hold by the delays in securing a stadium.