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Red Bulls Arena's Busy Year: 50 Arena Events In 2022-23 Season

Nov 18, 2023
Red Bull Arena Mural Newark NJ

The Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, initially designed to be the soccer-specific home stadium for the Major Soccer League team the MetroStars has evolved into a bustling hub for a diverse array of sporting events and activities. Over the past year, the 2022 to 2023 season, the arena hosted an astonishing 50 events, showcasing its versatility and appeal beyond just Major League Soccer. 

The MetroStars were purchased by Red Bull GmbH in 2006 and rebranded as part of Red Bull’s global network of soccer clubs leading to its current identity as the New York Red Bulls. The Red Bull organization was sued by the Town of Harrison when it refused to pay property taxes but later the Town of Harrison and Red Bulls reached an in-court settlement that allowed the expansion of the stadium beyond its original purpose in exchange for annual lease payments.

This year there was an extensive roster of events including international soccer matches like the US Women’s National Team against Germany, the Ecuador versus Bolivia game which were sold out, and the high-profile Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United. The arena also accommodated the National Women’s Soccer League, with NJ NY Gotham FC playing several matches, including one against the San Diego Wave that drew a record attendance of over 15,000.  The Red Bull Arena is now the home stadium of Gotham FC.

Red Bulls Arena Not Limited to Soccer

Notably, the Red Bull Arena events this year were not limited to soccer. The Red Bull Arena hosted diverse events like the Mystery Car Show Meet and a college football game between Hampton Pirates and Grambling State Tigers. However, this packed schedule has not come without its consequences for Harrison residents.  What was envisioned as the home stadium for the MetroStars soccer team, now the New York Red Bulls soccer team, with twelve to fifteen home games has ballooned to fifty arena events per year.

Impact On The Town of Harrison Community

Residents of Harrison have been significantly impacted by the increased traffic and congestion brought about by these events. The Harrison Redevelopment Agency (HRA) had promised infrastructure improvements to alleviate these issues, such as the Route 280/Cape May Street interchange and a new Jackson Street Bridge, but Harrison Mayor James Fife, who also doubles as the Chairman of HRA, has not drawn up any plans to build infrastructure, promised but not built.

Failure to Deliver On Redevelopment Promises

The failure to deliver on these promises, particularly in light of the arena's expanded use, highlights a disconnection between development plans and community needs. The unfulfilled promise of the Route 280/Cape May Street interchange, for example, has left residents dealing with increased traffic on local roads. Similarly, the new Jackson Street Bridge, which was supposed to improve traffic flow between Harrison and Newark and include pedestrian and bicycle lanes, remains unrealized with no plans in the pipeline.

Lack of Green Space

In addition to the traffic issues, the lack of promised green spaces around the Red Bull Arena—envisaged as parks, playgrounds, and dog parks—represents a missed opportunity for community development and environmental sustainability  If you thought, the latter was bad stick around as the story gets a lot worse. 

Mayor Fife Tries To Take Back His Statement

Mayor Fife stated at an August 29, 2022, HRA meeting when being questioned about the lack of Green Space in the Harrison Redevelopment Zone that there were plans to use the former PSE&G Gas Works plant site in between the Harrison Path Station and the Jackson Street Bridge for Green Space but that the Environmental Protection Agency was going to use the property for the dewatering of toxic dioxin laden sludge at the non-decontaminated PSE&G property.  In a September 20, 2022 meeting of the Mayor & Council, Mayor Fife tried to state that he knew nothing about EPA’s plan and that the PSE&G site was not decontaminated and not next to residential properties. Mayor Fife then conceded he did know about the plans and that the planned site for dewatering toxic dioxin-laden sludge was across the street from residential luxury apartment buildings when he was confronted with his August 29, 2022 statement at the Harrison Redevelopment Agency meeting.

Unmet Commitments / Community Needs

This situation in Harrison, NJ, underscores the complexity of urban development where large sporting venues are concerned. The Red Bull Arena, while becoming a significant player in the sports and entertainment scene, also brings to light the challenges faced by local governance in balancing the aspirations of such developments with the practical needs and well-being of its residents. The story of Red Bull Arena is not just about the expansion of a sports venue's role; it's also a tale of unmet commitments and the ongoing struggle to harmonize urban development with community needs.

Mayor Fife's Support of EPA Threatens Harrison's Redevelopment & Its Residents

The Environmental Protection Agency's plan to dewater toxic dioxin-laden sludge from the Passaic River in the PSE&G former gas works plant shows a disconnect by EPA leadership that violates their mission statement, The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mission is to protect human health and the environment. EPA has committed to making equity, environmental justice, and civil rights a centerpiece of the agency's mission; and jeopardizes residents of Harrison and the accomplishments envisioned over twenty-six years ago when the later Mayor Raymond J. McDonough and members of the Town Council including the later Peter Higgins and the former Councilman Anselmo Millan set up the Harrison Redevelopment Agency to turn the then industrial part of Harrison which had many contaminated properties and reinvent the historic industrial part of Harrison to the modern luxury apartment neighborhood now affectionally called SOHA (Southern Harrison) a variant of the SOHO neighborhood of New York City.  Mayor James Fife has failed to oppose EPA’s plan. A dereliction of his duties as Mayor and Chairman of HRA in the eyes of former Councilman Anselmo Millan.  Mayor Fife has failed not only to build the infrastructure promised in the Harrison Redevelopment Plan plus the Green Space and now fails to oppose the EPA plan which would place toxic dioxin sludge in a residential community threatening the progress made in revitalizing a once, ironically, contaminated properties to a luxury apartment neighborhood.

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