Queens MLS stadium isn’t imminent, really

Following up on Monday’s skepticism about a Queens MLS stadium really being on the horizon, I have a piece up on the Village Voice website today with some more informed skepticism about the plan to put a $300 million stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The short version: The project still needs to go through the city land-use process, which would likely take a year or more; and before it can even get to that point it needs the support of the local city councilmember, who is currently wary of the deal, in particular how and where replacement parkland would be located. Also, the Mets owners hate it, and they’re the kind of 800-pound gorilla that can stop something like this in its tracks.

And speaking of the replacement parkland, the New York Daily News has its own skeptical article up today, which in addition to confirming that “it might be years before a MLS team plays its first home game in north-central Queens,” has some details on where MLS is looking to build new public soccer fields to replace those that would be buried under their stadium:

One proposal discussed by state and city officials would call for the Metropolitan Transit Authority to turn over an equivalent amount of land that would be converted to parks.

Friedman outlined two specific proposals — one that would transform the area of the abandoned Flushing airport, and another transformation closer to Forest Hills near the abandoned Long Island Railroad lines.

“We’ve got to find land in roughly the same area,” Bloomberg said. “There is land on an MTA site, which everybody said, ‘Let’s get that.’ I have not talked to (MTA chairman) Joe Lhota, and I don’t know how practical it is, and how much Joe needs that land for other things. Before we go spending or taking away Joe Lhota’s land, maybe we should ask him.”

Both of those sites have some major problems. Flushing Airport, which closed in the 1980s, is actually in College Point, not Flushing, and pretty much inaccessible by subway, which would make it a lousy option for the soccer leagues from throughout Queens that currently play in Flushing Meadows. The abandoned LIRR tracks — part of the long-disused Rockaway Line — are in a somewhat more accessible location, but they’re also a mile long and 100 feet wide, and there’s already talk about using them as a greenway and hiking trail. Plus, the ever cash-strapped MTA would presumably want something out of any deal, which would only increase the cost of the whole project, already at $300 million for the stadium construction plus $100 million for an expansion franchise.

So: This stadium may eventually happen, but it’s still very early in the game. The only thing we can be sure of: Don’t believe any “exclusives” in the New York Post.

[UPDATE: MTA chair Joe Lhota tells Capital New York: “If we have a piece of property that’s not determined to be used for a future transit need and we own it and it’s available yes, we’re in the business of shedding assets to help us financially. And under the law we can sell assets as long as it’s a fair market value.” In other words: Yes, they’re damn sure going to want something out of any deal.]

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5 comments on “Queens MLS stadium isn’t imminent, really

  1. Deadspin had an article claiming this stadium paves the way for the NY Cosmos to return, only to play in MLS. That makes no sense as the Cosmos already derided the $100 million expansion fee for MLS as part of the reason they joined the NASL. Their argument was focus on players first. In fact, the practice field the Cosmos are based on for the moment is adjacent to Yankees Stadium. It would make more sense to turn that land to a new soccer stadium than the Queens project. Not to mention that Red Bull Arena doesn’t sell out and Home Depot Center, in the LA-area with millions of people, couldn’t sell out with the two host teams playing there. They even tarped off a whole section of seats at one goal. American soccer is completely wrong in how to develop stadiums. San Antonio shows a better path: Build the academy and build the stadium mostly private.

  2. The Bronx field is a public park, one of the ones built to replace the ones demolished for the Yankees. Also, it’s on top of a parking garage, and there’s barely room for minimal bleachers. Other than that, it’s a great plan…

  3. @Dennis Justice man if MLS doesn’t know how to run a stadium and don’t know who does! check the numbers in 1996 and check them now for your answer. The Home Depot in LA is one success story of many; if you didn’t see it sell out last week was because Chivas is the worst attended team in MLS and they were hosting, even if they play in the same stadium, it’s not the same season ticket holders, you get the point.

  4. The Me(t)ss are frightened to have the already-shrinking market for sports $$$’s carved up even smaller – no matter how small the percentage may be.
    They vetoed the Scranton AAA move to Newark and they’ll make another sports franchise entry in the area as difficult as possible, especially across the street.

  5. Some of the NASL (previously USL) facilities do show a more ‘reasonable’ method for developing stadia/clubs. Then again, many of them have been built for the expected 5k fans (max), with an eye to expansion to 15k or so in future when necessary.

    There is a world of difference between putting together financing and a build plan for a 5k metal bleacher stadium and the type of investment and technical know how needed for a 20k concrete and steel facility with permanent shopping, concourses, dressing rooms and other accoutrements.

    As for the “Cosmos”, Dennis, we’ll see how they develop going forward. Under MLS’ present structure, a club like the original Cosmos could never be built even if cash was no object (which under Warner Bros, it wasn’t). They might well say that that is a big part of why they chose the NASL, but the reality is that they didn’t have much choice. Ten years ago buying a USL team vs an MLS team was something that had to be considered carefully. There wasn’t much in the way of MLS pooled revenue to be shared, the competitive and financial rules were much more restrictive, and the USL liked to note that many of it’s clubs were actually profitable (probably untrue) unlike MLS.

    With the revenues generated by SUM these days, no-one who could afford an MLS club would choose the NASL today.

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