An artist’s rendition of the Ronkonkoma Vision Project. (Courtesy of Jones Lang LaSalle)
By Michael Lewis
If everything falls into place, Suffolk County on Long Island could have a professional soccer team playing there some day.
It is part of a plan by Chicago-based developers to build a sports arena and a soccer stadium near the Ronkonkoma Long Island Rail Road station, according to news reports.
In a new plan, known as the Ronkonkoma Vision Project, the developers, Jones Lang LaSalle has decided to cut its original proposal of an indoor arena from 17,500 to 7,500 and a 6,000-seat soccer stadium on the site as part of a $1.1 billion developmental plan, which also includes a convention center, officers and medical facilities.
Former Islanders star center and Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine has been charged with finding an American Hockey League team as the prime tenant for the arena. He also will be tasked to attract an expansion soccer team in USL League One and women’s and men’s soccer teams, according to JLL.
LaFontaine also will help the development team find youth sports to perform at the arena and stadium, which includes college and youth hockey, lacrosse, and academy soccer and youth tournaments, according to the Long Island Business News.
“This project will create a central gathering point for youth and families throughout the Island,” LaFontaine said in the statement. “It will be a game changer for Long Island sports, serving community youth every day of the year.”
The developers plan to submit its final project proposal to Suffolk by the end of May, according to LIBN.
The site includes about 40 acres of county-owned parking lot that is leased to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a six-acre town-owned parcel just east of the parking lot and another 40-acre compost site south of Railroad Avenue, which is owned by the Town of Islip.
USL League One did not have an immedidate comment.
It was not immedidately known if the Long Island Rough Riders, who will competein USL League Two this year, own League I territorial rights. Last year they played their matches at the Hofstra University Soccer Stadium. For many years they hosted home games at St. Anthony’s High School in Western Suffolk. Ronkonkoma is considered Central Suffolk, although some observers view it as as Eastern Suffolk.
USL One reportedly is looking toward adding an expansion team in a stadium adjacent to Citi Field in Queens.
If the Suffolk and Queens plans come to fruition, it certainly would make for an intriguing Long Island derby at the minor-league soccer level.
But before that, many things must fall into place.