Don Garber: “For the last 12 years, I’ve been trying to dream of the reality we have today, which is to have a cathedral for this great team NYC FC.”(Photo courtesy of NYCFC)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Almost 10 years ago to the date, Don Garber and Major League Soccer made a big push for a soccer-specific stadium in Queens.

The plan was to build a venue in the middle of Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens – for a then non-existent team.

It was rejected by the local community after it was presented to the citizens on Dec. 4, 2012.

On Wednesday morning, the MLS commissioner returned triumphantly and proudly back into the borough of his birth at the Queens Museum, to sing praises of a stadium finally would be erected – for New York City FC. New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced plans for a soccer-specific stadium that will be built in Willets Point, adjacent to Citi Field.

Actually, the league began its plans for a stadium and a team in Queens in 2010.

“For the last 12 years, I’ve been trying to dream of the reality we have today, which is to have a cathedral for this great team NYC FC,” Garber said, adding that Tuesday was “one of the most momentous days in the history of our great league.”

The venue reportedly will cost $780 million and is expected to be completed for the 2027 MLS season.

Besides being the commissioner of the league, which has its headquarters in Manhattan, the announcement had an extra special meaning for Garber. He grew up in Queens, specifically in Flushing, within a long free kick of the stadium. So, no one had to tell him how important it was for NYCFC, which has called Yankee Stadium home for the most part, to have a soccer stadium to call home in Queens.

“I grew up in the shadow of this stadium,” Garber said. “I’ve been involved in the creation and events like this of 27 stadiums throughout North America, but this one is quite personal to me. My parents grew up in Queens. My grandparents were immigrants. My grandmother was a school teacher at PS 41 in the 20s [1920’s]. My mother was a school teacher, and my brother works for the PBA. I grew up in Flushing, and for the last 12 years, I’ve been trying to dream of the reality we have today, which is to have a cathedral for this great team NYC FC.”

Garber thanked Adams and City Councilman Francisco Moya, who represents the Flushing Meadows area, and a was a force behind the scenes in getting the deal done.

“We chatted 12 years ago, and he called me up and said, ‘New York City deserves an MLS team, and I will be your biggest supporter to bring this city and everything that Queens is the soccer nation that lives in the diversity of this great borough,’ ” he said.

“We worked with three mayors, but one mayor was the finisher. As our great players from the first team who are here and the young kids from the academy who are behind us, it’s okay to be good but in our sport if you don’t finish, you’re not good enough.”

It seems every nationality on the planet is represented in and every language is spoken in Queens, which calls itself the world’s borough.

That was not lost on Garber.

“When we founded our league 27 years ago, we had a theme that we wanted to be a league for a new America, a country that’s diverse, that’s young that’s connected with passion with a global game, the beautiful game,” he said.  “Now here we are today, the personification of that dream, of that vision has been living in cities across America and throughout Canada.”

Garber added: “Sports are truly at their best when the spirit of community can sort of live through the passion of fans and through the great performances and dedication of players and the leadership of clubs from their coaches to the ownership. When that all works together then really, really beautiful things happen.”