USL goes into venue construction overdrive


US Rhode Island stadium update Jan 2021 Image: USL Soccer

A financing plan for the Pawtucket Tidewater Landing development project was recently given the thumbs-up by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Board of Directors. A new soccer-specific stadium which will be the future digs of a United Soccer League (USL) Championship club will serve as the main fulcrum of the development.

A historic development opportunity that will completely transform Pawtucket’s riverfront and support economic growth in the Blackstone Valley and Rhode Island for years to come. Tidewater Landing will be the largest economic development project in the history of Pawtucket, Rhode Island (US).

The United Soccer League (USL Championship) is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States that began its inaugural season in 2011. The USL is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation as a Division II Professional League since 2017, placing it under Major League Soccer (MLS) in the hierarchy.

USL Soccer sources informed that the public investment will focus on improving public infrastructure and not on the stadium per se, which will be privately financed. The venue will be able to pack in a crowd of 7,500 but it is likely to be designed to hold up to 11,000 spectators. It is said that the investment will be bang for the buck, and the overall $284M project being developed by Fortuitous Partners will spread across 25 acres on six parcels on both sides of the Seekonk River.

Exulted USL Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Real Estate Officer Justin Papadakis, “The developments in the City of Pawtucket are something to be proud of. The impact Tidewater Landing will have on the area both through the stadium and development project will be great, and we look forward to seeing continued progress and thank the Commerce Corporation Investment Committee for their hard work.”

Stated Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo, who is also US President Joe Biden’s Commerce Secretary, “The announcement brings us one step closer to a near future where jobs, commercial activity, community and recreation come together to reinvigorate downtown Pawtucket. This land, which sat underdeveloped and underutilized for decades, will now serve as a catalyst for economic activity throughout Rhode Island.”

Remarked Brett Johnson, Founder of Fortuitous Partners, leaders of the Tidewater Landing development project, “On behalf of everyone at Fortuitous Partners, I want to express our thanks to Governor Raimondo, incoming Governor Daniel McKee, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien and his team, and Rhode Island’s First Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor and Commerce RI for their support and the incredible amount of hard work that has culminated into making Tidewater Landing a reality,”

Added Johnson, “We are excited for this unique, sports-anchored live, work, play community and the launch of professional soccer at Tidewater Landing, to help transform Blackstone Valley and the City of Pawtucket and to provide an added source of pride for the great State of Rhode Island.”

He continued, “With this exceptional milestone support from the City and State, we will break ground later this year, creating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of positive social and economic impact, and we cannot wait to welcome Rhode Islanders to our inaugural home game in 2023. Thank you to all for your support and faith in this project and we are honored and grateful to move to this exciting next stage.”

Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (Commerce RI’s) mission is to work with public, private and non-profit partners to create the conditions for businesses in all sectors to thrive and to improve the quality of life for its citizens by promoting the State’s long-term economic health and prosperity.

Fortuitous Partners is an investment firm that invests in real estate developments and operating businesses, particularly in sports anchored mixed-use real estate projects.

Venue projects

USL Soccer sources further informed that the financing nod for the Pawtucket development comes close on the heels of Pro Iowa revealing renderings of a proposed soccer-specific facility in Des Moines, Iowa that would also become the residence of a USL Championship club in future years.

Pro Iowa is the campaign to support bringing a new multiuse soccer stadium and USL Championship club to Des Moines, Iowa (US). A new initiative was also announced by Pro Iowa in collaboration with Krause+, the real estate development wing of Krause Group, and the City of Des Moines with the objective of repurposing areas in Downtown Des Moines spread over 65-acre the expense of which will come to $535 million.

The projects in Pawtucket and Des Moines are among a handful of new venue projects currently being planned across the USL Championship and USL League One. The construction of a stadium and cultural center that would serve as the home of the Championship’s New Mexico United (USL team based in Albuquerque) is currently under discussion in Albuquerque, New Mexico, US, while OKC Energy FC (USL team based in Oklahoma) is set to develop a new home arena in the years to come as part of the City’s MAPS4 initiative, which was greenlighted in December 2019. League One’s South Georgia Tormenta FC based in Georgia, meanwhile, is presently constructing a new soccer-specific stadium and mixed-use project that is all set to open for the 2022 season.

USL League One is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States and Canada that began its inaugural season in 2019. United Soccer League announced the formation of the league on April 2nd, 2017, with the temporary name USL Division III.

Oklahoma City’s MAPS 4 initiative is a debt-free public improvement program funded by a temporary penny sales tax that will raise a projected $978 million over eight years. More than 70 percent of MAPS 4 funding is dedicated to neighborhood and human needs. The rest is for quality of life and job-creating initiatives.

The above facilities will join a collection of present venues that have either recently got off the ground or are nearing completion in both leagues. 2020 saw the opening of Louisville City FC’s (USL team based in Louisville, Kentucky) new 15,000-capacity Lynn Family Stadium in the Butchertown district of the City, and Chattanooga Red Wolves SC’s (USL League One team based in Chattanooga, Tennessee) CHI Memorial Stadium, where surrounding development of housing, retail and office space has continued throughout this offseason.

Three new arenas are also set to open this season in the Championship. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s (USL Championship member based in Colorado) new 8,000-seat downtown digs Weidner Field, part of the broader City for Champions initiative that will see capital infusion of $120.5 million into new downtown facilities and amenities, is set to open this Spring, while the Charlotte Independence (USL Championship team based in North Carolina) will move into Memorial Stadium after a $40 million cash injection lent a futuristic touch to the legendary venue for year-round use in the community. Phoenix Rising FC (USL team based in Phoenix, Arizona) will also open the doors of a new 10,000-seat stadium at Wild Horse Pass within the Gila River Indian Community.

The Tidewater site and the Division Street site will be a two-phase development. The project will support more than 2,000 direct and indirect construction jobs and 940 direct and indirect ongoing jobs. The initial phase (Phase 1) will comprise a mixed-use development of 435 residential units with a 150-space garage, 60,000 square feet of commercial area, 56,750 square feet of retail and restaurant space along with the stadium and its accompanying parking spot where 750 vehicles can be parked.

Phase 1 will also entail reconfiguration of infrastructure and public space such as utility and storm water improvements, roadway and streetscape improvements, off-site infrastructure improvements, surface parking, public plaza spaces, and the development of 4,000+ linear feet of riverwalk and pedestrian bridge. Phase 2 is likely to see the construction of an indoor entertainment and event venue, as well as a hotel.

Concluded Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, “This project puts us on the path to spark historic economic activity and revitalize downtown Pawtucket and its riverfront. I thank Mayor Don Grebien, our State and local leaders, the Fortuitous team and everyone who championed this project to help unleash the economic and recreational potential of downtown Pawtucket. This is only just the beginning.”

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