HARRISBURG - Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said yesterday that he was optimistic the state would be able to put together a stadium-financing package in time to persuade Major League Soccer to award a franchise in Chester.
"I am working hard to find a level of support that is appropriate and that will allow them to begin that waterfront development and bring that franchise to Pennsylvania," Pileggi (R., Delaware) said soon after the Senate broke for its holiday recess. "We are just not there yet."
Moments later, Gov. Rendell chided Senate Republicans, saying they had hampered the stadium financing as a deadline loomed.
The governor said he had crafted a package that he believed "satisfies the ownership and the league," but couldn't guarantee it without the Senate authorizing an increase in the state borrowing limit for such capital projects.
"It seems to me there is this mania about borrowing that has gripped the Senate Republican caucus," he said.
Many GOP senators strongly oppose increasing the state's debt limit and have staked out political turf on the issue before.
Responding to Rendell's remarks, Pileggi said that he had met with aides of the governor yesterday, and that he understood the administration's package was for $21 million, less than half the $45 million sought from the state for the project.
Major League Soccer is expected to announce which city gets its next franchise - the 16th - by Jan. 31. Key to that decision is confidence that public financing would be available.
Investors seeking a franchise based at a proposed waterfront stadium in Chester are competing against a St Louis group.
Delaware County officials have agreed to kick in $30 million toward construction, and the developers and the league are awaiting formal word from Harrisburg for the $45 million from the state.
The Senate will not return to Harrisburg until Jan. 14.
Pileggi said he and his staff had worked daily for the last month trying to determine the proper level and potential sources of the financing.
"We understand that today is the second week in December and they have asked for a commitment," Pileggi said. Asked whether he could say right now that there would be a commitment by the state in time, the majority leader responded, "We are not at that point yet."