From the very beginning, long before construction crews began working on beautiful PPL Park, the Union’s top executives kept saying the expansion franchise was for the fans.
That’s because it was. It is. It always will be.
When you’re sitting in meeting after meeting with political figures, lawyers and countless others – keep in mind this was long before the franchise was even granted – it’s easy to lose sight of the project’s ultimate objective. But this franchise – the 16th in Major League Soccer – was built for a passionate fan base who made themselves known and heard.
This fan base will be ecstatic when the Union officially debut against Seattle on Sunday at PPL Park.
You want excitement? How about years worth of anticipation?
You want passion? Don’t even ask. That has been on display for years already with the Sons of Ben leading the charge.
You want energy? Well, just check the name on the stadium. Enough said.
These fans are sure ready for all the drama that Sunday’s debut will provide.
“You know, there was something that really struck me,” said Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. “”We were at the Open House at PPL Park recently and a lady came up to me. Lost in all the excitement of the U.S. Men’s National Team game and the Open House, this lady said, ‘Can I ask you something?’ I said, ‘Sure.’
“This lady was crying. I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ She said, ‘I’m just so happy to have a team here. Thank you for bringing a team here.’ I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that was something.’ It was a pretty emotional scene and reminded me why we’re doing this. That hit me pretty hard in a good way. The fans are why we do what we do. It’s for them.”
Coming into the season, the Union knew the first 10 games would be difficult, especially with only two at home. In those two games, the Union defeated D.C. United, 3-2, and tied FC Dallas, 1-1. With a 2-7-1 record, the club is now going to benefit from a clear homefield advantage at PPL Park.
Judging by the overwhelming support in those first two matches at Lincoln Financial Field, the best clearly is yet to come.
“I think we all knew how tough it was going to be,” Sakiewicz said. “We talked about it, and considering that these guys haven’t even been together very long, I think they’ve handled themselves very professionally. It hasn’t been easy at all. After the two games at the Linc where the crowd was so into it, I think the players are going to be excited about playing at PPL Park.
“It’s a soccer stadium that was built for the fans. I know I’ve said that a lot. It’s true. The place is going to be so full of energy.”
Each individual working for the Union has their own unique story about how special this match will be on Sunday.
For Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer Dave Debusschere, his story will always be etched in his mind.
“I remember interviewing one person for a job opportunity and this person was crying,” Debusschere said. “This person was crying, but was happy. It was for a job and this person said, ‘Thank you. I really appreciate this opportunity.’ I’m a Delaware County resident, and I understand what it means to people. It hit home for me, too.”
Sakiewicz was involved in all the initial meetings with proposals going back and forth.
Not once did he think the stadium deal wouldn’t go through.
On Sunday, it will be real.
“From the start, I always said I wouldn’t pay attention to the skeptics,” Sakiewicz said. “I never believed it woudn’t get done. I never paid any attention to negative people or negativity about the project. Maybe that was naïve on my part, but that’s how I felt. I’m a very positive person. I put 110 percent of my energy in helping to get the deal done. There were too many positive things working for us not to get it done. It’s going to be one of the true scenic stadiums with a beautiful view of the waterfront. The stadium is unbelievable. It’s just very, very exciting any way you look at it.”
Sakiewicz is going to be so busy on the day of the match.
Will he have time to reflect when he goes to bed later that night?
“You know how I feel?,” he said. “We think this is a stadium and a franchise that’s going to get better and better and better as the years move on. We’re in this for the long-term. This opening on Sunday will obviously be special with all kinds of ceremonies. We are thinking long-term with all of this. That’s how we were thinking from the start.”
Another beginning is just about here. PPL Park will be powered up for real.
Brace yourself, Union fans. Sunday will be the first memory in a stadium that is sure to create many over the years.
The excitement begins now.