Mets offer Citi Field for soccer, MLS says “nuh-uh”

In this week’s New York City soccer news, the New York Mets owners say they’d be “open to discussing the use of Citi Field for a potential MLS team,” while MLS officials call the idea a “nonstarter.” Which is news, that is, if you missed all the other times the Mets owners have expressed interest in owning an MLS team, or all the times MLS commissioner Don Garber has said he only wants teams to play in soccer-only stadiums. Though I suppose this is the first time the Wilpons have explicitly offered to host a soccer team at Citi Field itself, and so the first time MLS could reject it.

On the one hand, soccer at Citi Field is a pretty terrible idea — though it’s fine as a plus-sized venue for the occasional international friendly, it’s way too big and oddly shaped to be ideal for an MLS franchise. On the other, it doesn’t require spending $300 million or taking public parkland, so as an interim measure to test whether there’s really a big market for MLS in Queens, you could do worse.

Except, of course, that right now “build it, or we won’t come” is the only leverage that MLS has to extract approval for a new stadium from the city, so they’re not going to give it up and risk having their interim solution stretch on for years, like things have with D.C. United. Of course, New York City has leverage, too — city officials could easily say, “Play in the place that’s already built, or take your act to some smaller media market” — but it’s not clear how willing they are to use it. Right now negotiations seem aimed at finding a way to make everybody happy, which is a nice goal, but when you’re talking about a building that will cost $300 million, plus $100 million in tax breaks, plus relocating public soccer fields and public parkland, there’s not going to be a lot of extra happy to go around.

9 comments on “Mets offer Citi Field for soccer, MLS says “nuh-uh”

  1. You could point to Seattle as an example of a successful MLS franchise sharing a stadium with another tennant. Or you could point to Foxborough as an example of why you don’t want your MLS clubs being the secondary tennant. Those two situations aren’t exactly mirror images of each other as they are run so very differently (Seattle gets it, New England has been playing catch up since MLS began in 1996) but MLS is only OK with sharing stadia as long as the owner of the MLS club also owns the stadium. Most MLS clubs don’t generate enough revenue on game day to pay the types of rents required by stadium sharing.

  2. The US Women’s team will play a game at Yankee Stadium. Liverpool played an exhibition at Fenway Park. No, it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. Seems to me it would be better to have a team prove they deserve a “soccer-specific stadium” first considering New Jersey taxpayers are paying through the nose for Red Bull Arena, frankly the best such stadium in America, but yet draws flies. Everything in American soccer politics is to defend a cartel that does everything opposite the rest of the world with the same tired excuses. Meanwhile, ignore the entire southeast, St. Louis, Baltimore, San Francisco, Vegas, etc., all who have large enough markets if done right.

  3. I think even the Seattle Sounders grumble every so often about their stadium being astroturf and they’ve got some pretty strong feelings about markings on the field after each type of game. If Allen wasn’t a minority owner of the Sounders and majority owner of the Seahawks I would expect more grumbling.

  4. The Sounders will be after a publicly funded stadium next. I can already hear the whining of the Sounders “but we get more people, and all the other teams have new stadiums”. They will have some sites already vetted by the proposed NBA arena Review. I would bet that the Sounders are actively supporting the NBA arena proposal. It will be “if you don’t go, you won’t pay” once again, only now with the Sounders.

  5. jhande: The Sounders do complain about the astroturf, but Qwest field was built for both football and soccer specifically, so it is a perfectly fine stadium for MLS. They have no plans to move, frankly, and I wouldn’t expect that to change until the Seahawks are also looking for a new home.

    As for “we’ll get more people”, no they won’t. They put more than 50,000 in for soccer several times last year, not just for special events either. I believe their avg attendance this year was around 44,000…

  6. Has anything been built over the westside railyards yet?

    I know, I know, the Jets/Olympic stadium may have been a pipe dream… but the MLS pipe dream would likely be less than half as costly and could more reasonably host other events as well (not that many “other” uses for a 70,000 seat football stadium).

    Plus Queens gets to keep it’s parkland… And MLS is actually in Manhattan…

    I know it’s out there as suggestions go, but if it were my money, I’d rather spend $400m building in Manhattan than $280-300m in Queens. And not just cos it would piss the Dolans off so massively…

  7. Not surprising that the “family” (Wilpon/Katz) will scrape for any possible revenue generating opportunities, no matter how embarrassing. Sounds like a Jeff-ie idea.
    Why would MLS want to blocked off for at least half the weekends and many weekdays to accommodate the MLB schedule (although October should be free and clear for a while) and have to hand over a chunk of their income?
    MLS also has delusions of grandure that the league can become “big league” by forcing their way into Queens.
    As far as a west side location, there is still a working rail yard that would have to be built over. Even with a smaller building footprint, it’ll cost many millions to sink pilings and lay a platform even before they build seating – and where will the cars park? That was one of those little annoying details that was left out of the Bloomberg/Johnson proposed monument and that problem doesn’t go away.
    Maybe they should do the floating stadium like Singapore where the old aquacade was on Meadow Lake and customers can park along the Grand Central and Van Wyck or hike it from the subway – good exercise.
    BTW – MLS contends that 160 new full-time jobs would be “created” by their new place. Look at the size of the front office personnel league wide, it’s about 85% less than 160, who are they trying to kid?

  8. Hey if the METS really want to be good guys, why dont they give up trying to build a Mall on parkland and give up 13 acres out of the couple 100 they stole from Queens for MLS to build their park. All the focus is on a bird toilet when the Mets are stealing much more without promise to replace. The people in that part of town dont give a damn about baseball or tennis, but want MLS if it means new fields, replaced parkland and getting rid of the giant toilet. Tennis and baseball stole their land and want to expand, yet are trying to kill the MLS plan in order to throw a bone to the save the parks people. This is done all the time, kill the one project that makes sense and push through the project that is politically connected. Funny that a political hack made the offer!

  9. John Bladen, Complaints are consistantly floated that because the field is not real grass, that some of the European Leagues won’t allow teams to play there.

    I am not saying that the Sounders would leave Seattle, I am saying that the Sounders will soon be demanding public funds for a soccer specific stadium.

    Then Paul Allen will just bribe his way as he did with the Seahawks Stadium. One of the whines will be that the Sounders are drawing a large amount of fans, and deserve their own publicly funded arena like the Mariners, the Seahawks, Key Arena, and a possible second publicly funded NBA arena.
    “How come the NBA has two publicly funded arenas built for it; and we can’t get public funds for even one MLS stadium”.

    I figure the Sounders hadn’t been demanding public funds for a stadium yet because of Seattle initiative I-91, which prohibits subsidy to stadiums. But now, since the politicians on the Seattle City Council are prepared to subsidize an NBA arena, regardless of I-91; I am sure Paul Allen and the Sounders will be demanding money shortly. Allen knows the grab public funds game.