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Union announce plans for new Chester sports complex

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union have announced plans to build the WSFS Bank Sportsplex, a 32-acre sports complex on the Chester waterfront.

The Sportsplex, located on the current site of Subaru Park’s Lot B, will consist of outdoor fields, an indoor facility, and a new home for both Philadelphia Union II and the Philadelphia Union Academy.

“This best-in-class facility will provide a singular home for our professional and academy teams while creating a premier destination for local youth groups to fall in love with sports,” Union owner Jay Sugarman said in a press release.

The project is expected to cost $55 million to complete, with WSFS Bank joining as the naming rights partner.

The Union envision the Sportsplex as both a driver of development for the long-dormant Chester waterfront as well as a key piece of the club’s first-team pipeline. Union president Tim McDermott described yesterday’s announcement as “the beginning of an important next chapter for the Philadelphia Union and the growth and development of the Chester Waterfront.”

While the estimated financial impact offered by the Union seems rosy — $90 million in economic impact over the first decade — Chester’s mayor, Thaddeus Kirkland, hailed the project. “It will create better jobs, more recreational opportunities, and a bridge that connects our community to our beautiful waterfront.”

The Sportsplex will include

  • A 100,000 square-foot indoor facility, which includes a 125×75 yard turf field, two courts, a performance center with eight room and sprint track, locker rooms, and a cafe;
  • A 70,000 square-foot support building that will house Union II and the Union Academy, with YSC Academy being housed in a new school inside the Union Power Plant; and
  • Seven outdoor multi-sport fields, including three full-size grass fields (one with bleachers), one youth-size grass field, and three full-size turf fields.

The Union expect to break ground this winter, with the outdoor fields finished by August 2023 and the indoor facilities opening in June 2024.

This seems like a very positive development for the Union organization, particularly unifying the Academy — currently based in Wayne — with the rest of the club. The indoor facilities will benefit the first team, too, who will no longer have to seek out indoor bubbles at Penn Park or in Wilmington for preseason or wet-weather training sessions. Whether the complex will actually drive further development along the riverfront remains to be seen, but hopefully the facility becomes a boon to the Chester community.

One question left unanswered by the announcement, though, is what the parking situation for Union games will look like in 2023. Lot B is the longtime home of the Sons of Ben tailgate and a primary parking lot for many fans. The Sons of Ben have indicated that a new tailgate spot is in the works, but it’s unclear what other parking solutions are planned.

The announcement made no mention of expanded or additional public transit access via SEPTA, an a Union spokesperson told The Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald that “there are plans in progress to acquire more space for parking lots.”

More information on the project, including renderings, can be found here.


  1. John P. O'Donnell says:

    The twitterverse is already hating on this announcement as not enough. No housing, no retail, no this, no that. I must say they love to do projects during a recession, instead of when the economy is humming.

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      For me, so long as there isn’t any public money put toward the project, I am less concerned with there being more stuff like housing and commercial associated with the project. If you use public money, you should provide public goods. If it’s a private project, the responsibility to develop Chester as a whole is much lessened. That doesn’t absolve everybody of the failures of the past, of course, but I think the time for judging every new Union development project through an historic lens has passed.

  2. Another issue un-addressed is what will be done with the current schoolhouse and soccer facilities in Wayne.
    Might they serve as as academy for young women?

    • John P. O'Donnell says:

      I know I’ll get flak for this but looking at the Portland situation, I hope the Union never get involved in the woman’s game. Let another ownership group figure out how to build a team and the infrastructure to make it successful.

      • Not as much flak as you may expect. It is a sad reality.
        And Jerry Sandusky reminds us that predation is not limited to just one gender.

      • Why? Are you afraid we have predators in our leadership? This has nothing to do with the women’s game, and everything to do with hiring the right people.
        Something which I think we can agree the Union are very good at.
        If anything, I want to see Union get into NWSL for precisely this reason.

  3. The e-mail announcement I received from the team did include this line regarding parking:

    “The Union are in the process of acquiring additional space for parking ahead of the 2023 season.”

  4. The big picture is that this is definitely a good development. Nice to see that kind of investment and if it serves as a place to host tournaments and other competitions, perhaps private investment in the surrounding neighborhood can follow.

    I’m a bit puzzled, though, why they’d place this right next to the stadium. And it seems to replace the first team’s current practice field? I think, too, that what is just as important as providing the spaces for parking is figuring out a better way to direct that traffic out of the stadium after a game. Obviously, improving public transit access would help a lot with all of that.

    • I’m sure the first team will still use the grass fields for training — early morning weekdays aren’t a time when there will be a ton of youth soccer happening.

      • When I embedded for a day at the Union”s Academy in December of 2016, all Academy teams had practices from 8 AM to 10:30, then classes till 2:30, and practices for the older teams –back them U15,17,19? — until 4:30.
        This season Union II practices start around 9:15-9:30, and Union, about an hour later.
        The change will be the availability of three full-sized grass fields, not two, a fourth youth-sized grass field, and three intermediate sized turf fields. Since the Academy practices exclusively on turf right now in Wayne, Four Academy teams and two professional teams could, if necessary, practice simultaneously,y while preserving the seventh field as Union II’s game field with its bleachers shaded by the under-roof complex.
        The grounds crew will want rest for its facilities of course.
        They are taking four turf practice areas at the former Rocket Sports between indoors and outdoors, and replacing them with three turf and one undersized grass. And they are adding a U II game field to the existing two grass practice fields.
        So the new complex replaces what they have and adds the U II game pitch.
        The schedulers will earn their money on weeks like the one immediately past when it is raining too heavily to be outside if you are not an aquatic mammal.

      • Plenty of adults play at YSC, too.

      • The first team could train on the youth field in prep for NYCFC and turf fields for certain away matches. 🙂

  5. I also assume this complex will get major use during the World Cup – so maybe US Soccer or MLS are throwing some money towards the project.

    • Certainly would increase the facilities available to any national team or teams based in Greater Philadelphia.
      It would be interesting to generate a list of the schools and colleges that could serve as training bases for national teams.

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