By Michael Lipinski, Sports Talk Philly Editor
The reborn United States Football League did what other Spring football leagues were unable to do, they made it through a season. The season, according to ownership and investors, was deemed a success. The USFL and Fox Sports have already announced that season two of the league will kickoff next Spring. But where is the million dollar question.
The Birmingham “bubble” made sense for season one especially with uncertainty around the pandemic and local rules. But the bubble environment made for an odd looking affair with nearly empty stadiums, unless you were watching the hometown Birmingham Stallions. That won’t work for season two.
If the USFL wants to be taken seriously they will need to move most, if not all, of their teams into the home markets.
Having the players and coaches in the community will increase their visibility and create connections with fans. The USFL doesn’t need to be the NFL to be successful especially in a sports crazed city such as Philadelphia. Case in point, the Blazers, Firebirds, Phantoms, Soul, Kixx, RiverSharks, and Wings all enjoyed decades of success here.
They were here in the Delaware Valley. They lived here, practiced here, and more importantly they played here.
Playing “here” might be the hardest part of the equation. Where will the Philadelphia Stars play if they move to the region?
Lincoln Financial Field | South Philadelphia
The Linc would naturally be the first choice as a home field for the Stars. No they wouldn’t pack 65,000 fans into the building but they wouldn’t have to. Drawing 20,000 -25,000 fans would put them on par with Temple football. A half full Linc can still be a fun environment plus the team/league would be able to take advantage of the surrounding area namely Xfinity Live and the easy access for everyone.
The Negative: Rent cost of The Linc could keep the league out of the building. Temple reportedly pays the Eagles $1 million a year to use the facility. It could be cost prohibitive especially assuming ticket prices for the USFL would be continue to be “family friendly.”
XFL 2.0 made great use of smaller MLS stadiums for many of their franchises, the DC Defenders come to mind. The smaller stadiums make for a more intimate environment which comes off incredibly well on TV. It also brings the fans closer to the action. Like The Linc, it’s located off of I-95 with plenty of parking and areas for tailgating, etc.
The Negative: It’s in Chester which is something that will be an immediate “no” for a lot of people. What’s more problematic is the Philadelphia Union. It’s their home pitch and they would obviously have priority. Would they even all American football to be played at the same time as their MLS season?
Franklin Field | University City
Franklin Field offers a unique venue with amazing views of Center City Philadelphia. It’s a historic football venue that’s hosted NFL Championship games, Army-Navy games, and Monday Night Football. It’s the current home for the University of Pennsylvania Quakers of the Ivy League and some renovations have been made to the nearly 100-year old stadium.
The Negative: Franklin Field, home of the Penn Quakers, is about 60-years past it’s prime as a football venue. The University and the UPenn athletics department have taken steps in recent years to drop the number of available seats. It would also be a logistical nightmare for fans. There’s limited parking and most fans would be forced to use public transportation.
Delaware Stadium | Newark, DE
Yup, Delaware Stadium on the campus of the University of Delaware. It’s on the fringes of the Philadelphia market, it’s been renovated, and can hold 20,000 fans. The press box is worthy of FBS football and can accommodate TV broadcasts. There’s plenty of parking for fans to set up tailgates and it’s relatively easy to get to.
The Negative: It’s in Newark, DE. Nothing against the fine community of Newark but it’s Delaware. Delaware can be a bit weird. A 45-or-so minute ride from Philadelphia could dissuade fans from making that drive.
Villanova Stadium | Radnor Twp, PA
Well, it’s a stadium and it’s in the region. Villanova Stadium can hold around 13,000 fans and has hosted other professional sports such as the outdoor National Lacrosse League. The University athletics department recently dumped a bunch of money into the football facilities including the press box area. It’s kinda easy to get to and there’s ample parking in the area.
The Negative: If it’s kinda easy to get to that also makes it kinda hard to get to. Anything off the Blue Route is hit or miss with traffic. The facility is smaller in size and comes off even smaller on TV because of the way it’s constructed. Playing at Villanova Stadium comes off as less professional. But hey, it’s there.