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Sports, Entertainment District Planned for Albany

Major League Soccer and the potential owners of an MLS developmental league team are pitching Albany officials on an 8,000-seat stadium that would be the centerpiece of an entertainment district in the city's downtown Liberty Square area.

NextProp, a developmental league affiliated with MLS, is aiming to have a team playing in Albany by 2026 in time for the start of soccer's World Cup, which will jointly be hosted by the U.S. Canada and Mexico in 2026, the Times Union reported.

The soccer franchise, which doesn't have a name yet, would be principally owned by Business for Good founders Ed and Lisa Mitzen, plus a group of investors including real estate developers Jeff Buell and Chris Spraragen.

The developmental league team has the backing of MLS executives who met with elected officials on Thursday and unveiled plans for a $300M entertainment district including hotels, restaurants and apartments next to a stadium on a nine-acre tract in the Liberty Square neighborhood.

"The Capital Region has been on our radar for some time," Charles Altchek, the NextProp league president and an MLS executive vice president, told the newspaper. "From a market perspective, we didn't have to be convinced."

Team officials said they expect to ask the state to help finance the project, but they emphasized that most of the funding will be from private investment, the report said.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan called the proposal a "once-in-a-generation, transformational opportunity" for the Liberty Square area. "I will do everything in my power to help make this a reality," Sheehan said, in a statement.

Schenectady-based Reform Architecture has developed initial site plans and renderings of the proposed stadium district.

Team official also have been talking with Populous, the architecture firm responsible for the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London and the new Buffalo Bills football stadium, about designing a stadium in Albany that could be scaled up with additional seating, the report said.

In addition to soccer, the Albany facility would host concerts and other events that aren't large enough for MVP Arena or the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs. The NextPro league expects to play a 28-game schedule in 2026, including 14 home games.
Reprinted with permission from the Tue, 14 May 2024 05:32:53 EDT online edition of GlobeSt © 2024 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877-256-2472 or reprints@alm.com.