CHESTER, Pa. — Earnie Stewart sent a message to Keystone Sports Entertainment business executives on Wednesday: Get off my field.
“If you choose to be a soccer organization, that comes first and foremost and every decision that you make,” Stewart said. “I understand the business part of our operation, but we have to think about that big picture.”
The first-year Union sporting director was incensed by the condition of Talen Energy Stadium's grass prior to Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew (see game story). The venue hosted the NCAA Divisions I & III women's lacrosse championship over the weekend, which predictably ripped up the field in front of both goals, forcing the soccer club to patch holes with visible sod.
“Lacrosse was in our stadium this last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and it’s been difficult for me,” said Stewart, who also mentioned the poor optics of MLS players playing on a poor field. “I do have to say that [groundskeeper] Johnny Torres with his group did an amazing job to get the field prepped, but still, you can see a couple lines. We had to resod parts of the field and everything.”
But in the business world, in which money rules, how does Stewart plan to keep extremely lucrative non-soccer events from tearing the Union’s field? He wants to ban all in-season events from Talen Energy Stadium, which is owned by Delaware County but booked in part by Keystone Sports and Entertainment — the business arm of the Union.
The stadium is set to host the collegiate rugby championships on June 4-5.
“This is a soccer organization,” he said. “Otherwise, it should have been an entertainment company or something. I think it starts with soccer. That’s why they built this club.
“You can have things but you can’t jeopardize the field. It’s difficult when you have a marching band, rugby or lacrosse. It wears and tears the field. I don’t know if there’s a middle ground, to tell you the truth.”
Stewart’s mission didn’t begin on Wednesday with the media. He let loose earlier in the week, apologizing to both the Union and Crew players for the playing conditions.
“It’s my responsibility to make sure the players have the best possible way of winning games,” he said. “And that’s on a good field with a good ball and good players around them. That’s my responsibility and that’s what I have to stand for.”