A ‘pitch’ for parking

Photo by Jim Hague A ground-level view of Red Bull Arena.
Photo by Jim Hague
A ground-level view of Red Bull Arena.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The New York Red Bulls need more parking to accommodate the crowds showing up for their home games, here in Harrison, and the team is taking active steps to get it. S

o said Red Bulls GM Jerome de Bontin last Wednesday night, during a meeting of Harrison Business Connections, an alliance of Harrison-based business organizations and those doing business in Harrison, held at the Red Bull Arena.

Guests were given tours of the “skyboxes,” team warmup and locker rooms and the field-level Ferrari-style seating “manager’s boxes,” at the arena which opened in March 2010 as the new home for the Red Bulls, formerly known as the MetroStars.

Interested in any of the 40 skyboxes? For a single game, you’ll have to cough up anywhere from $4,500 to $7,000 for five hours access to the private space which can seat 17 to 30 guests inside and up to 13 outside, a team spokesman said, and that includes the price for the ticket to the game, food and drink (except alcohol) and parking. Or, if you prefer to pay for the season, it’ll cost you between $70,000 and $100,000, the spokesman said.

In a brief speech, de Bontin, a Parisian by birth, said the team’s parent company Red Bull, named for the energy drink by the company’s Austrian founder Dietrich Mateschitz, is currently valued at $12 billion.

He said the company’s product, whose “first can was sold in 1987,” is now “represented in 160 countries.” But, of course, the brand has been extended to a number of company acquisitions, notably sports-related activities, including professional soccer teams in Austria, Germany, Brazil and the U.S., Formula 1 Racing and stock car racing enterprises in Europe, along with extreme sport celebrities and the arts.

When it was purchased in 2006, the New York soccer team was “probably the biggest single investment” made by the company up to that time, according to de Boutin. This year, the team won a conference title.

“The team is fortunate to have this stadium [as its home], one of the best in North America,” de Boutin said, and Harrison was a “good choice” for its location, he added, because the arena is within close walking distance from the PATH train station, “only a few stops from Manhattan.”

And the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and runs the bistate PATH system, has just begun an upgrade of the aging station to accommodate more daily commuters.

He said the Red Bull ownership has been participating in talks with Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough and developers who own property around the arena to explore possibilities for securing more parking opportunities to accommodate the thousands of fans who attend the team’s 17 home games and other events.

This past season, according to one team spokesman, the Red Bulls averaged about 19,000 per home game in an arena designed to hold up to 25,000.

“We have been waiting for a sign from the authorities,” de Boutin said, possibly to purchase an eight-acre parcel next to the stadium.

“We want to start some meaningful work to provide additional parking that will drive more people to the arena,” he added.

Photo by Ron Leir Red Bulls GM Jerome de Boutin speaks to guests at stadium last week.
Photo by Ron Leir
Red Bulls GM Jerome de Boutin speaks to guests at stadium last week.


With that extra parking space in hand, de Boutin said the Red Bull organization could then begin to explore the possibility of offering other sports attractions such as “women’s soccer, lacross, rugby, an ice rink for the wintertime,” all based at the arena.

If that happened, he said, “we could have as many as 40 events a year … almost one a week.”

Would the team be tempted to pick up and leave if it couldn’t get the parking it needs? “Harrison is important to us,” de Boutin told the guests. “We are here to stay.”

In a brief interview with The Observer, de Boutin said that while it was still “premature” to discuss specifics about future parking infrastructure, whether in the form of a garage or surface lots, the team’s intent is to “buy or lease” land to accommodate “about 3,000 to 4,500” spaces for vehicles.

In its desire to offer its fans a fuller menu of consumer- related enterprises, both in and out of the arena, de Boutin said the team has been pressing public and private officials for swifter movement on development around the stadium.

“We want to see things being built,” de Boutin said. Yes, he added, the team recognizes that the 2008 recession showed the pace of projected development, “but the land [around the arena] has been empty too long.”

Ideally, he said, “we would like to see some retail, combined with a garage, so we can grow the business of the stadium, at the same time, though, without creating too much of a problem for the neighborhood and for the new PATH station.

” To that end, de Boutin noted, “we have lobbied the [Major League Soccer] to limit the number of weekday games [played at the Harrison arena], mindful of the [traffic] hardship in Harrison.” This season, the team had four home matches on Wednesdays and one on Tuesday. Those nights, motorists typically dealt with lengthy bottlenecks along Harrison Ave., Rodgers Blvd. North and the side streets intersecting them.

The Observer wondered if the team ownership was considering shelving its legal challenge of the right of Harrison to tax the land and improvements where the Red Bull Arena sits but de Boutin shrugged and said he believed that litigation was still proceeding.

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