I had a chance to take Little G to that new soccer stadium out in Harrison, New Jersey, right on the Newark border, over the weekend. It’s the home of the Red Bulls, but on Saturday it hosted an international rugby match, U.S. against France. There were no vuvuzelas, though there were Thundersticks–which Little G enjoyed way, way more than the match.
The stadium, which holds 25,000, is an ambitious endeavor. A soccer stadium! In the U.S.! In a town you never heard of!
Red Bull Stadium during construction last year, photo courtesy of Jersey Jim
Location is, of course, everything, and Red Bull Stadium was put there for two reasons. There’s a huge Portuguese population in Harrison (and Newark), and there’s a PATH station a few blocks away. (I also saw the New Jersey Transit trains chugging by, though I’m not sure where they stop in the area.)
Me and G, coming from the great northlands, drove in, an at times harrowing journey through those confusing Jersey highways seen in the Sopranos open. We parked in a giant parking garage built around the Harrison PATH station.
The stadium sticks out of the ground like a giant mushroom, and in between the parking garage and the stadium is a giant, fenced off square of dirt that’s about three city blocks square. Along the fence is an artist’s rendering of what the giant square is supposed to look like down the road. It’s a semi-urban oasis of multi-use development: restaurants, apartments, retail, offices, all built around the PATH station. It looks dreamy, as those artist renderings always do.
And just off in the near distance is the Newark skyline, which looks like a real city skyline, something between White Plains and, I don’t know, Buffalo or somesuch.
Will such a development happen? Frankly, if they pull off 25% of the development featured in the artwork, it would be a cool area.
Will Manhattan types move to Harrison, New Jersey? Hard to say. Certainly they flocked to Jersey City, which is a little closer to Manhattan, also accessed by PATH.
I always figured Newark would eventually be invaded by Manhattan people looking for cheap real estate and a really easy commute, either by New Jersey Transit or the PATH. That the city got a super-cool mayor in Cory Booker and took control of its huge crime problem only looked to open the door for a mini-influx.
In fact, after almost 20 years of either living in Manhattan or Westchester, I’ve never met a single person who lives in Newark.
Can Harrison sell itself–Major League Soccer, shops, transit–to urban hipsters? Time will tell. Maybe hosting a few big-name concerts at the soccer stadium would help people get familiar with the area. So would erecting something in the big dirt square other than weeds.