HERSHEY -- The Harrisburg City Islanders are making a pitch for a new pitch.
The team hopes to have a new stadium in two years, club CEO Eric Pettis told CBS 21 News Sports Director Jason Bristol.
"We have the nicest environment -- and the worst stadium," said Pettis. "We've got to do something to upgrade it."
The City Islanders are celebrating their tenth season and play their games at Skyline Sports Complex, located on Harrisburg's City Island, next to Metro Bank Park, the home of the Senators.
Pettis said he's already spoken to the Harrisburg Mayor's office and believes a new stadium would cost between $5 million and $10 million. Money for the stadium could come from private investors, state funds or both -- "whatever it takes," he said, noting he hopes to have a funding plan put together in the next couple of months.
An upgraded facility is more of a necessity now that the City Islanders and Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS) have expanded their partnership, allowing Union players to stay, practice and play important games for the Isles for an extended period of time, even the entire USL season.
"It's an absolute priority -- long term," said Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz, who was in Hershey for a new conference announcing the expanded partnership. "We have got to have a good pitch (for our prospects) to play on. We have to have good stands and accommodations for the fans to create that environment.
"Having the environment is probably 50% of the development of a young player."
Pettis told Bristol the Skyline Sports Complex no longer meets the minimum stadium requirements set forth by United Soccer Leagues (USL). "We've been grand-fathered in," he said.
Pittsburgh has a new stadium for its USL Pro team, the Riverhounds, and that franchise has seen a huge spike in season tickets sales, according to the City Islanders. The Riverhounds' home opener on April 13 is already sold out.
Pettis said the City Islanders want to stay in Harrisburg, "but if that can't happen, we'll have to look at other alternatives."
"It's not just about building a soccer stadium," he said. "Its about bringing more fans to games; is about creating a nice environment. Not just for pro soccer; but (for) high school matches and other sports that can be played down there."
"Its turning the venue into something the City and the area deserves."
The team currently rents Skyline Sports Complex from the City on a per-game basis only.
Sakiewicz said the Union, which plays at PPL Park, built at a reported cost of $122 million in 2010, will do what it can to help the City Islanders get a new facility.
"By the way, economically, it would be great for the City," claims Sakiewicz. "It will be more economic development.
"I know a lot of fans from Philly would travel to see the up-and-coming stars and vice-versa."