Well its been exactly a month since we found out the Steel FC are playing the vast majority of its games in Chester, PA. Yours truly has taken a deep breathe and tried to wrap my head around this. I thought it would be nice to update anyone who is out of the loop. In addition to creating a "thread" on twitter that we can report any new developments. So this is what i know...
Within a few days of the awful news of the Steel leaving ... Philadelphia Union Chief Business Officer Tim McDermott agreed to come to Bethlehem to sit down with fans and in his words be "as transparent as possible" in explaining what had gone wrong. I felt that was as very important first step in a good direction. When i first heard the news of the Steel leaving i really thought it was 100% a done deal - permanent exit…the boys in blue were gone. Reaching out the olive branch like this was not something that the Union had to do. It showed me that there are NOT trying to completely burn the Bethlehem bridge at this time.
So the big questions is WHAT HAPPENED??? The single most important piece of info i had heard BEFORE the meeting with Tim was that the BIG reason this season had become a problem was the lack of lights at goodman stadium. Well no crap...there haven't been lights at goodman for 3 years...why is that a deal breaker now? Well as it turns out that is a question for the USL. The previous 3 years the Steel FC had been getting a waiver to play in the USL with no lights. That changed this year. I'd imagine its because of the USL rebranding and with the Steel slated to play in its top division they decided without warning that were no breaks anymore for our hometown heroes. Tim Mcdermott confirmed the pulling of the waiver was indeed the catalyst (not some evil plot) for the temporary move to chester. I know some people don't think that makes a difference, but i really think it does. The union truly seemed a bit surprised by the development and hence this kinda half-baked retreat to Chester.
Tim went on to talk about past, current and future options. The two most realistic options at this point are a reworked Cottingham Stadium in Easton or adding the required lights to Goodman. But make no mistake these are no easy push button fixes. If they were one would think they would have been done by now. First and foremost i personally think the BIG litmus test is: the 2 "possible" home games in 2019. As far as i know they have been suggested but not yet promised or confirmed. At the meeting Tim showed real interest in trying to get just one game at Coca Cola Park which needless to say would be rather awesome...but realistic? I don't know. Irregardless of local location … if these games happen i think we are still in play as long-term hosts for the Steel FC … but for whatever reason they don't i think its time to start working on plan B as Bethlehem Futbol supporters. If they can't get 2 games to happen here how they heck are we going to get a full season?
Overall i found Tim to be calculated but very sincere and it was nice to get some kind of 1st hand communication from the Union after that train wreck of an announcement. Many of us fans greatly appreciated the effort and we can only hope it continues.
If you are a fan of the team i know you must be frustrated. I know i am. The Steel website has barely been updated. Tim McDermott is really our only contact. "Our" team's roster is currently ravaged. So I am going to pin this story on twitter and if anyone (including Tim :) has any updates, news or thoughts please chime in and hit reply. I am not a Facebook guy so if there is news over there i am missing please share here! But this can be a bit of a sounding board in the short-term while everything else starts to get sorted out.