A divided Delaware County Council voted yesterday to float nearly $30 million worth of county bonds as part of a public-funding package for the Major League Soccer stadium being built on the Chester waterfront.
By a 2-1 tally, council approved the incurrence of $28.6 million of debt, which will be paid off over 30 years using slots revenue designated for economic-development projects in Chester. The state is kicking in $47 million.
A county sports authority will own the $115 million soccer stadium, which is expected to open in April 2010 and ultimately serve as the centerpiece of a huge residential, retail and entertainment complex along the Delaware River.
Councilman Andy Lewis voted against the bond ordinance - it is believed to be the first nonunanimous vote on the all-Republican council in at least a decade - while Chairwoman Linda Cartisano and Councilwoman Christine Fizzano Cannon abstained due to potential conflicts of interest.
Vice Chairman Jack Whelan, who voted for the ordinance along with Councilman Tom McGarrigle, said the county's investment is protected, because the county would keep the 18,500-seat stadium if the team relocates or the league folds.
"If they move the team during the first 10 years, they have to pay the county $10 million - and we still have the stadium," Whelan said.
Lewis said he cast the dissenting vote because MLS refused to provide him with audited financial statements.
"I even offered to sign a confidentiality agreement, but was unsuccessful," he said.
Yesterday's vote was attended by union members who support the stadium project and the jobs it will create and residents who said they would prefer to see the money spent on health care or education.
Nick Sakiewicz, chief executive of the league's yet-to-be-named 16th team, said more than 6,000 season tickets have already been sold for the opening season.
Fans can begin voting Monday on team names by selecting one of the four names that will be included on the online ballot or writing in their own choice. Go to mlsphilly2010.com or Philly.com to vote. *