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Jan 22, 2009

Red Bull Arena opening delayed until 2010

In a setback for the New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Arena will not be completed in time to open during the 2009 MLS season, meaning the Harrison stadium will now open in 2010.

Red Bulls managing director Erik Stover confirmed to ESPNsoccernet that the club will have to wait until the start of the 2010 season to open Red Bull Arena.

"We have dealt with a number of obstacles throughout 2008 that led to delays in construction, thus Red Bull Arena will not be completed until after the 2009 season," Stover said. "When we started erecting steel last August, we said that we had been hit with delays out of our control but were hoping that we would [be completed during the 2009 season].

"With all this in mind, the best decision for us is to prepare for the 2010 season," Stover said. "Our goal has always been to create a first-class experience for our fans. Opening before we are 100 percent ready would do a disservice to our fans that have waited for our new stadium."

According to multiple sources, multiple issues led to delays in construction and development, from government red tape to delays in the development of the area.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it should. This development shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anybody who has followed the long and torturous journey the club has endured in its quest for a soccer-specific stadium.

The delays in the Red Bull Arena project have led to another casualty in the club's plans. The proposed practice facility in Hanover will not be built in the immediate future as the club focuses its attention on completing Red Bull Arena.

"We will not be breaking ground in Hanover in the immediate future," Stover said. "The more prudent thing for us to do is to focus on Red Bull Arena and reassess the Training Grounds later in the year.

"Hanover is still in our future, but our focus at this time is on Red Bull Arena."

The Red Bulls are expected to extend their deal with Montclair State University, which is home to the club's current temporary practice facility.

Not all the news is bad regarding the stadium project. The bonds that needed to be sold to build the parking deck next to Red Bull Arena have been sold, clearing the way for that project to commence. There had been concerns about whether the bonds would be able to be sold in this current economic climate. With that issue resolved, the stadium and parking facility should be ready to go for the opening day of the 2010 season.

So who is to blame for the latest delay? You could argue that the real blame lies with New Jersey politics, which has been known to cripple and even kill many a deal. The town of Harrison lobbied hard for the stadium project, but not everybody in Harrison has been completely supportive of the project. Red Bull does deserve some blame for being naive enough to think that it could get through the red tape without a hitch, when 2010 was always the most likely outcome.

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