City Islanders to play in Metro Bank Park, Clipper Magazine Stadium in 2016

Michael Sadowski//January 27, 2016

City Islanders to play in Metro Bank Park, Clipper Magazine Stadium in 2016

Michael Sadowski//January 27, 2016

Illustration / Submitted

In fact, the team has two new homes, neither of which is known primarily for hosting soccer.

The professional soccer team will split its 15-game home schedule between Metro Bank Park on City Island in Harrisburg and Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster.

Metro Bank Park will get the lion’s share of the home slate, hosting 10 of the 15 games. The stadium is next to the Islanders’ former home, Skyline Sports Complex.

At a news conference Tuesday to announce the move, both Harrisburg and City Islanders officials criticized the team’s former home. City Islanders CEO Eric Pettis joked the team now plays in a stadium with bathrooms, while Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said Skyline “isn’t up to professional standards.”

Metro Bank Park is the current home of the Harrisburg Senators, the Double-A, minor-league baseball affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Senators President Kevin Kulp helped announce the move at the news conference Tuesday. Pettis referred to the baseball team as a partner.

While it wasn’t part of the press conference Tuesday, the United Soccer League — the league in which the City Islanders play — released its schedule for the 2016 season. According to the schedule, the Islanders will play five games at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster.

Islanders officials confirmed the five-game slate Tuesday afternoon, and will make an official announcement in mid-February, according to spokeswoman Molly Gilroy. The stadium is the home of the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers.

Illustration / Larissa Newton

The City Islanders played two games at Clipper Magazine Stadium in 2015.

Pettis said Tuesday one of the directives given to the City Islanders by the USL was to increase its footprint. 

“They want (a market of) a million people, we’ve got 400,000 (in the Harrisburg area),” Pettis said. “We need to make a bigger footprint, and we have.”

Pettis also said the league told the City Islanders to upgrade its stadium situation, get a bigger investment group and increase the team’s staff. All of which, Pettis said, the franchise did, to the league’s approval.

“In other words, what they told us is, ‘You need to justify your existence in the USL,’” he said.

Pettis detailed an offseason of unrest for the City Islanders. He said the franchise was wooed by Nashville, Tenn., to relocate. Its former partner club, the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, wanted it to move to the Lehigh Valley.

“We could have left, we had lots of good, attractive offers,” he said.

But the team instead went independent. Pettis said he believes Central Pennsylvania is the place for the team to be.

The city owns Metro Bank Park — which will get a new name since Metro Bank likely will cease to exist come mid-February — and Papenfuse said it’s not a mystery the city has had trouble paying the debt on the stadium.

Bringing in 10 additional events this season will help the city’s plan to use the stadium more.

“This will lead to more ticket sales, it will lead to additional parking on the island, and that is what we are going to see here,” Papenfuse said.

The first game at City Island will be the team’s home opener on April 22.

The first game at Clipper Magazine Stadium is May 22, according to the league website.