Professional soccer is coming to Clipper Magazine Stadium in August.
The home of Lancaster's professional baseball team, the Barnstormers, will be converted into a soccer pitch for two Harrisburg City Islanders home games, including an exhibition against the 2014 U.S. Open Cup runner-up, the Philadelphia Union, on Monday, Aug. 31.
The Islanders own a 4-4-1 record against Major League Soccer clubs in U.S. Open Cup action. The Union is an MLS team and owns a 6-10-4 MLS record.
Harrisburg will also play host to a regular-season contest against FC Montreal on Saturday, Aug. 29, at the North Prince Street sports venue. The City Islanders are striving for a United Soccer League playoff berth with a 6-5-4 mark. FC Montreal is 2-11-2.
This will be the Islanders' second trip to Clipper Magazine Stadium, the first being in 2009 when the team played host to Crystal Palace F.C. of the Football League Championship in front of 5,099 fans. Clipper Magazine Stadium holds approximately 7,500 seats.
"We are very excited to bring our annual friendly with the Union to Lancaster and the Barnstormers' stadium," Islanders owner Eric Pettis said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to expose the high quality soccer that the USL performs at these days with our MLS affiliate and the city of Lancaster. We had such a great experience with the Barnstormers hosting our international friendly with Crystal Palace a few years back that we felt compelled to share more professional soccer with a very strong soccer community in Lancaster. This is going to be a great event."
New facility possible: The Islanders have recently taken the next step in stadium development by submitting a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant for the amount of $5 million. The organization hopes that, if approved, the grant will initiate the development and construction of a multi-purpose stadium that will replace the current Islanders' facilities at Skyline Sports Complex.
If approved, construction would begin in March of 2016 and the Islanders would be forced to play at another facility until complete. Because of this foreseen conflict, the Islanders are in search of a temporary alternative venue for home matches next season. Because of Clipper Magazine's facilities and proximity (40 miles from Harrisburg), the matches vs. Philadelphia and FC Montreal will serve as a trial run for a possible temporary home for the Islanders.
"This annual match with our USL affiliate is really a great opportunity for both clubs involved and is one we really appreciate each year," Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz said. "It's an opportunity for young stars in a growing league to showcase their skills against some of the best players this country has to offer, and they get to do so in front of our technical staff who truly values this developmental system. We're looking forward to another great match with Harrisburg and know we'll be seeing some of these players at the next level real soon."
Local flavor: Making a return home to Lancaster will be the Union's Andrew Wenger, the former Warwick High School standout and National High School Player of the Year. The 24-year old Wenger is second on the Union in minutes played this season in his first full year with the Philadelphia club. The 2011 Hermann Trophy winner as the nation's top collegiate soccer player scored six goals and recorded four assists for the Union last season.
In addition to Wenger representing the Union from this area, the Philly squad also boasts Jimmy McLaughlin of Great Valley and former Islanders star Sheanon Williams.
Along with the local players on the Union, the Islanders' roster features area natives Garret Pettis, a forward from Lower Dauphin High School, who currently resides in Elizabethtown; midfielder Danny DiPrima of Dillsburg; and former Pennsylvania Player of the Year Brett Jankouskas of Palmyra.
Tickets: Tickets for both games will go on sale, Tuesday, July 21, at 10 a.m. and will be available through the Two Dudes Box Office at Clipper Magazine Stadium, online at www.lancasterbarnstormers.com and by calling (717) 509-4487.
Season ticket holders of both the Barnstormers and the City Islanders will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets to the games as part of an exclusive pre-sale beginning Thursday, July 16.
All seats will be general admission. The cost will be $15 for the exhibition against the Union and $12 for the Saturday night game against Montreal. A combo ticket that includes a ticket to both matches is also available for purchase for $22. Group bookings for specialty areas, including the Hess' BBQ Picnic Pavilion and the Bobby Rahal Lexus suites can be purchased by calling the Barnstormers office at (717) 509-4487.
Both games will start at 7 p.m. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m.