In January, the Harrisburg City Islanders announced that the club would be playing their home matches at FNB Field (former Metro Bank Park) in Harrisburg and Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, PA.
The announcement means the City Islanders will not play a USL league match at Skyline Sports Complex for the first time in the club’s thirteen year history.
The City Islanders made the decision to relocate their home matches in-part due to the standards imposed by USL. The league will require that all clubs play in a stadium with a capacity of 5,000 by 2017 and play in a soccer-specific stadium by 2020. Skyline Sports Complex only seats 4,000 and was widely considered one of the worst venues in USL.
Harrisburg announced last month that they would divide their home schedule between two baseball fields in the area. The City Islanders will play ten league games at the renamed FNB Park (formerly Metro Bank Park). The field is adjacent to Skyline Sports Complex and will provide better facilities and amenities for the players and fans. The club will also play an five “home” games in Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium.
Last August, the City Islanders played two home matches at Clipper Magazine, a league match against FC Montreal and a friendly against the Philadelphia Union. Both matches set attendance records for Harrisburg, who have languished with some of the lowest attendance among independent USL clubs.
2015 was not the first time Harrisburg played a soccer match in Lancaster. In 2009, the City Islanders played London’s Crystal Palace FC at Clipper Magazine Stadium. Then of the English Championship (Second Division), Crystal Palace currently sits one point below Chelsea FC in thirteenth in the Premier League.
Both Clipper Magazine Stadium and FNB Field have a capacity of at least 6,000, which is within the league’s requirements, and are a vast improvement on Skyline Sports Complex. However, the move doesn’t come without drawbacks.
The two home stadium solution leaves the City Islanders without a true home. Poor sight lines are often an unfortunate aspect of soccer matches played at baseball fields. The stadiums aren’t designed for a long field with action on both ends. Supporters will have to make due with the seating available, and casual fans will have closely monitor where the club is playing on a given game day.
The two stadium solution is not ideal, for the club or supporters, and is only a temporary fix. The City Islanders will need to return to an expanded Skyline Sports Complex or move to a new soccer-specific stadium by the 2020 league deadline.
Shortly after USL’s stadium requirements were announced in 2015, the City Islanders applied for a $5,000,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant from the state of Pennsylvania to fund the necessary renovations to Skyline Sports Complex. The club described the project as the:
Construction of new, professional soccer stadium on City Island with 5,000 seats, dedicated VIP areas, entrance plaza, concessions, restrooms, indoor locker rooms, a state-of-the-art broadcasting booth and a new scoreboard. Renovations are needed to meet the United Soccer League (USL) standards and also to provide the basic amenities, sanitation and safety levels needed for patrons averaging 2,100 per home game, despite the conditions of the stadium.
As of February 22, the award recipients had not been announced.