Red Bull Arena in Harrison was never supposed to happen.
So says a team source who was privy to the contract negotiations between Red Bull and AEG, the owner of the team formerly known as the MetroStars. The 2006 purchase and rebranding of the MetroStars as the New York Red Bulls was never Red Bulls original intent. In fact, the MetroStars franchise wasn’t on the radar of the current ownership group.
“When Red Bull came along they originally wanted to have a team in New York, an expansion team,” the team source said. “After discovering for themselves the challenges and amount of time it would take to build a stadium in New York it was pretty easy to convince them to buy the MetroStars with a stadium deal that was all ready done and for the taking. They made the right decision.”
Another source, this one from within the league, confirms the fact that Red Bull originally wanted to build a stadium across the river and set up a proper New York City franchise. This second source said that costs were a major issue and that the current MetroStars set-up with a stadium deal complete in Harrison, New Jersey, quickly became an attractive option.
Throw in the fact that any expansion team in New York City would have to pay a fee to AEG for having a team within a certain radius of north Jersey means that Red Bull quickly shifted focus to the MetroStars franchise.
“When you look at the expansion fee cost of $30 million plus an additional $20 million in fees to AEG, it really is a no-brainer,” the league source said.
According to both sources, the Red Bull organization was eyeing the expansion team to play in Queens in a brand new stadium. The estimated time for the stadium in New York was about 10 years, so Red Bull turned their attention west, where Harrison “was already baking” according to one source.
According to the team source, AEG was looking to offload the MetroStars franchise after the “dot com” bubble burst in the middle of last decade. At the time, AEG was embroiled in at least one major lawsuit and was contemplating dumping all its league holdings; the source said that “they got very lucky with Red Bull coming along.” There was no other legitimate interest in anyone purchasing the MetroStars franchise and since Red Bull was only interested in the New York market, both the league and team sources validate the New Jersey franchise was the logical choice.
In addition, MLS was skeptical of the re-branding of the MetroStars franchise by Red Bull and requested that the new ownership group refrain from any name change or drastic steps till after a year in the league. According to both sources, AEG waived any concerns about the Red Bull sale and rebranding effort in the interest of unloading the team.
Both sources spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the nature of the information shared. The Red Bulls did not respond to an attempt for a comment from the team.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for questions or comments at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and is known to occasionally tweet at @kdyer1012.
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