Yankee Stadium is one of six venues for NYCFC. (FrontRowSoccer.com photo)
By Michael Lewis
A pair of divergent news stories about the New York City FC stadium situation broke on Friday.
As expected, it was announced that NYCFC will play its Concacaf Champions League game against San Carlos (Costa Rica), out of New York City, and at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Feb. 26. Yeah, that Red Bull Arena that is the home of the Red Bulls.
It is embarrassing for the team and the league in so many different ways. We’ll tackle that in a minute.
In a story (https://tinyurl.com/tcrwob7) that was posted by The New York Times’ David Waldstein, it appears that NYCFC and a group of local developments are close to an agreement with New York City in a deal tha) t would allow the MLS club to build a privately financed, 25,000-seat stadium near Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx.
Yes, we have heard many a story about this was a potential stadium site and another deal looked good in another part of the city. So, it is reasonable to be skeptical about it. Me? With apologies to a good journalism and a good newspaper, I won’t believe it until I see it or there is a shovel in the ground. Way too many teases in the past.
If things go well, according to the report, construction wouldn’t begin until 2021 at the earlier and the stadium would be completed in 2024.
When NYCFC announced it would play at Yankee Stadium in 2013, team ownership said it the squad would play at the stadium three, maybe four years. Even then, we were skeptical. BTW, NYCFC will enter its sixth MLS season in March.
MLS must get its share of the blame, allowing NYCFC to enter the league without a permanent stadium plan in place.
Gee, I always got the idea from commissioner Don Garber and the league that a soccer-specific stadium was among the top priorities, if not the No. 1 priority, for a potential expansion team (well, a couple of billion in the owners’ back pocket also was high on the list). Was the Cosmos’ entry into the North American Soccer League in 2013 considered that much of a threat by MLS that it needed a second team in the metropolitan area?
It just seems having a soccer-specific stadium isn’t as important as we thought to get an MLS franchise. Exhibit A: Inter Miami CF’s ongoing soap opera on trying to find a proper stadium site over the past several years.
And then there’s the Nashville SC mess with the city of Nashville. But that’s a topic for another time and discussion.
NYCFC fans aren’t particularly happy with the prospect of playing in the home of their enemy, even if its stadium owners, the Red Bulls, are not participating in the competition.
Here we are, the 25th season of the league and a team in New York City is still playing in a baseball stadium entering its sixth year.
True, this hasn’t been the first time a first division team in the USA has used a baseball park for its home. Heck, the Cosmos did in 1971 and 1976. So did the Chicago Sting, among other teams.
Even MLS clubs have utilized baseball stadiums — by Sporting Kansas City (CommunityAmerica Stadium) and San Jose Earthquakes (Buck Shaw Stadium, which has been used as a baseball park).
But this is the 21st century, the era of soccer-specific stadiums. Soccer deserves better that this. So do NYCFC supporters. They shouldn’t have to venture out of the city to watch a home game. They were forced to do it in 2017 when they played at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. because the Yankees had to play a make-up game against the Kansas City Royals two days after the regularly scheduled game against the Houston Dynamo.
NYCFC? The team will call RBA its sixth stadium since entering the league in 2015. If you’re counting, there’s also Coffey Field (Fordham University), Belson Stadium (St. John’s University, Citi Field (Mets home venue), Rentschler Field (East Hartford, Conn.) and of course, Yankee Stadium (Bronx).
Six! Six stadiums!
That’s an MLS record.