The site where the NYCFC soccer-specific stadium will be built in Willets Points, Queens. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
A 10-year search for a stadium for a New York City team in Major League Soccer is about to come to an end.
According to The New York Times, city officials have reached an agreement to build a 27,000-seat soccer-specific stadium that will cost the team an estimated $780 million, in Willets Point, Queens.
The stadium will sit across the street from Citi Field, where the Mets play baseball, and is expected to be completed by 2027. NYCFC has wanted the stadium ready for use by the 2026 World Cup, which the United States will host along with Mexico and Canada.
The Times said that NYC Mayor Eric Adams and NYCFC officials on Tuesday confirmed the stadium would be built.
According to a source, the official announcement is supposed to come on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, an advisory by the NYC’s Office of the Mayor was received by this website, saying that Adams would make an “affordable housing and economic development-related announcement” at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. There will be no Q&A with reporters afterwards.
NYCFC officials have not returned requests to FrontRowSoccer.com for comment.
Breaking News: New York City reached a deal to build a soccer stadium in Queens as part of a project that will include housing and a hotel. https://t.co/36yyRSe4V5
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 16, 2022
The stadium will be the centerpiece of a 23-acre project that will include a 250-room hotel and 2,500 units of housing, the newspaper reported. That area had been the venue for many auto body repair shots and scrap yards and in recent years, a rather unsightly mess in recent years.
NYCFC has called Yankee Stadium home, more or less, since it starting playing in MLS in 2015.
“Queens, which is the world’s borough, now will become the home of soccer, which is the world’s sport,” NYCFC deputy major for economic and workforce development Maria Torres-Springer told The Times on Tuesday.
According to The Times, NYCFC will play some of its games at Citi Field to build a following in Queens.
Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
Before NYCFC played its first game, club officials announced in 2013 they would play at Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees, for three or four seasons. The Yankees own about 20 percent of the club.
Many members of the media, fans and sports and soccer observers scoffed at the notion, realizing how difficult it was to find open land in the city and the cost of constructing a stadium in cost and time.
NYCFC tried to build a stadium near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, along the Hudson River and even near Greenwich Village, but ran into a series of obstacles, including the not in my backyard syndrome (NIMBY) politicians blocking the project, among several other challenges and headaches along the way.
Actually, MLS, led by commissioner Don Garber, a native of the borough, tried to build a stadium nearby at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens in 2012, but ran into a big roadblock by the local community.
In 2012, Garber said MLS wanted to build a “world-class soccer stadium here in Queens. A stadium that I believe will be one of the best, one prestigious one of the most beautiful soccer stadiums in the world.”
NYCFC playing at Yankee Stadium. (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
Since the Yankees are the obvious No. 1 tenant in their own stadium, NYCFC became second class citizens in their home venue and as the only MLS team not playing in a soccer-specific stadium or a football stadium. The stadium was only available to the soccer team when the Yankees were on the road, and there were restrictions on how many days there would be between a soccer match and baseball game.
Due to the stadium’s dimensions and the Yankees’ refusal to place a soccer pitch more over the infield and over the pitchers’ mound, the field was narrower than most.
Grass was placed over parts of the field that was used for soccer, which did not always match the color of the outfield.
While an enjoyable venue for baseball, it wasn’t for many of the club’s soccer supporters because fans were rarely close to or on top of the action, as in many MLS stadiums.
When he was Brooklyn Borough president Eric L. Adams said this about the Cosmos playing in Brooklyn: “There’s an international appeal in the borough of Brooklyn; 47 percent of Brooklynites speak a language other than English at home. No other sport personifies this diversity and energy more than soccer.” Adams, second from the left is pictured with Raul, Carlos Mendes and Alecko Eskandarian. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer Photo)
NYCFC’s quest for a home got even more serious this season. Despite winning the 2021 MLS Cup crown, the team essentially became nomads, being forced to play home matches at six venues.
Besides Yankee Stadium, City has called Banc of California Stadium (Los Angeles), Red Bull Arena (Harrison, N.J.), Rentschler Field (Hartford, Conn.) and Belson Stadium and Citi Field (both Queens).
“It’s pretty much of a fantasy,” NYCFC vice chairman Marty Edelman was quoted by The Times. “We’ve been an itinerant tenant in a number of different spaces. I think our fans need a different GPS every week to figure out where they go to watch us play.”
Asked to comment by FrontRowSoccer.com about the imminent news about a Willets Point stadium on Nov. 9, Edelman replied by email: “Happy to talk to … after something actually happens. Will be who knows when.”
According to The Times, NYC owns the land on which the stadium and housing will be built. The city will lease it to NYCFC and to a development team that includes Hudson Yards developer Related Companies and Sterling Equities, the paper reported.
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