NYCFC returns to old Bronx stadium site with new Rube Goldberg funding plan

NYC F.C. is back with another Bronx stadium plan, but this time it’s not the one alongside the Gentrification Death Star that was proposed and then pretty much shot down earlier this year. Instead, according to the New York Times’ Charles Bagli, the team’s owners (Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahayan of Abu Dhabi and the Steinbrenner royal family of New York) are working on a new stadium plan at another Bronx site just south of Yankee Stadium that was previously proposed and then dropped almost five years ago. And whereas that earlier plan would have involved a panoply of tax and land breaks — $60 million of foregone property taxes, $21.5 million in other city tax breaks, $25 million in free rent, and $100 million in foregone parking revenues — the new one involves so many moving parts that it would make Rube Goldberg’s head spin:

  • The Yankees owners, who got an agreement out of the city to provide 9,500 parking spaces for the baseball stadium they built in 2009, would reduce that requirement to 6,500 parking spaces, freeing up the old “triangle garage” and adjacent surface lots south of the old Yankee Stadium site.
  • Developers Jorge Madruga of Maddd Equities and Eli Weiss of Joy Construction would buy or lease the garage and the lots from the city, and buy the adjacent GAL Manufacturing factory from its private owners, all for undisclosed prices.
  • Madruga and Weiss would lease the GAL site to NYC F.C. for another undisclosed price, while building a hotel and conference center, retail and office space, a school, and “as many as 3,000” affordable apartments on the garage and parking lot parcels.
  • NYC F.C. would construct a stadium on the GAL site, reportedly for $400 million, which would be by far the most expensive MLS stadium yet built.

This, you will notice, cleverly manages to arrange that no subsidies go directly to NYC F.C. — the team’s owners would be leasing private land, which would continue to pay property taxes. This enables Bagli to note that the soccer stadium is “not asking for the avalanche of free land, tax breaks and public funding” that went into other New York–area sports venues.

However, until we know who would pay what for which land, and whether the developers would pay fair market rent and property taxes on the garage land, it’s still entirely possible that the developers would be getting significant subsidies, which they could then pass along to NYC F.C. via cheap stadium land rent in appreciation for the Yankees allowing the entire deal to be done in the first place. (Needing the Yankees to approve the reduction in parking spaces is the only way it makes sense for the developers to be involving NYC F.C. at all, since you’d think otherwise it would be easier just to buy the parking parcels and forget about the GAL land.) And there there’s still the estimated $100 million in parking garage payments that the city is still owed, which it would never get if it handed over the land for private development, but which it also might never get if it kept the parking garages because nobody wants to pay to park in them, so you tell me how to calculate the value of that.

That, needless to say, is a lot of ifs — and as Bagli is just going by what NYC F.C. told him (plus what the city told him, which appears to have been mostly “nothing is final yet”), there’s no way to put a number on how much if anything this would end costing taxpayers … yet. If nothing else, it appears that the Steinbrenners and Sheik Mansour are taking a page from the Brooklyn Nets playbook, and creating a financing plan that’s so complicated that even I can’t fully understand it.

It’s also worth noting that there have been a lot of NYC F.C. stadium sites floated over the years, and I mean a lot. By my count, we have had: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, Pier 40 in Manhattan, the GAL factory site, someplace in the city, someplace not in the city, Aqueduct race track in Queens, someplace in Brooklyn, the site of Columbia University’s football stadium in northern Manhattan, Belmont Park in Nassau County, that Harlem River site in the Bronx, and now back to the GAL site. So while it’s certainly worth taking this report seriously, it was also worth taking all of those other ones seriously and they never happened, so for now consider this yet another medium-percentage shot on goal that might go in if it sneaks into a corner of the net, but still has to make it past the wall and the keeper. Who would be, I guess, local elected officials and the city council? I think I may have gone and made this metaphor even more complicated than the financing plan, sorry about that.

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15 comments on “NYCFC returns to old Bronx stadium site with new Rube Goldberg funding plan

    1. I think they’re more likely to be playing in New Jersey at the Meadowlands sooner rather than later. The Yankees operations really don’t like them there and will likely force them out at the first possible opportunity.

      1. No way. That would fatally damage the brand. NYCFC have staked their entire identity on being within the City.

        They could probably get away with being right on the City line in Nassau County, or perhaps being a few miles north of the City line in Westchester. But being in New Jersey, after years of mocking the Red Bulls, would drive the fanbase away.

        If this Bronx plan falls through, then I would assume that NYCFC would turn their attention back to Queens — meaning Willets Point, not Flushing Meadow Park.

  1. Still dont understand how the site works. The entire site is 11 acres if you include the parking garage/GAL/two adjacent surface parking lots. The site has a road and the Metro North going through it. Neither GAL or the parking garage can fit a stadium by itself(used Red Bull Arena as a example for size).

    1. Agreed, it doesn’t seem like it can work… unless the $400m stadium is only going to have 9500 seats, of course. Even if you use very highly inclined seating areas (think old Yankee stadium upper deck), I think it would be a struggle to fit even 22,000 seats and the modern amenity expectations into a parcel like that.

      1. From the sound of it, they’re actually looking to close off 153rd St and use both the GAL property and the triangle garage for the stadium, and put the housing further south? There’s a lot of conflicting information right now, and not much it makes sense.

  2. Neil: You may have to shut down your website. Why? A lot of the teams that want Stadiums or Arenas are moving closer to getting them. Besides NYCFC, the Coyotes, Clippers, Rays & A’s have moved closer to that goal then ever before. All jokes aside, all of them will not have the “T”‘s crossed and the “I”s dotted by the end of the year, so your website will remain, but maybe, just maybe teams and organizations know that just the sports Stadium/Arena “Corporate Welfare” Money Train is coming to an end and now may be the last chance to get deals done before the money train leaves the station. Which is why this desperate scheme for NYCFC just may happen.

    1. There’s always someone knew to get on the back of the line. I am not hopeful about getting to retire anytime soon.

  3. The money train will never come to an end for any level of baseball. Including independent leagues.

  4. The only significant problem at Yankee stadium is the way they align the soccer pitch (to avoid the pitchers mound). It makes for a narrow pitch with a nearside touchline a long way from the 3B side stands on the infield

    I’m sure the Yankees ops people aren’t crazy about having FC play there 15 times a summer (give or take), but so what? Those folks work for the Yankees and the Yankees are part owners of NYCFC.
    I bet they weren’t crazy about Reggie Jackson spitting sunflower seeds in right field at the old park… or cleaning the toilets after a game (or in the clubhouse). But that’s their job.

    Apart from the absence of an additional subsidy for the NY and Abu Dhabi Royal families, what is the problem with staying at the baseball stadium?

    1. The NYC FC pitch set up 10′ or so outside the pitchers mound to avoid player injury and to prevent having to remove and rebuild the mound every time the field is changed from one config to the other, meaning it’s an awful long way from the infield seating to the touch line in soccer setup as noted above.

    2. Because the camera wells used for FC are mainly on the third base side, TV viewers (and more importantly sponsors and MLS execs) see very few fans and a number of offset advertising signs on their screen…. it looks like no-one is there, even when there are 18-20k watching (most in the near side stands). And I bet the signs are mostly Yankee partners, not NYCFC sponsors.

    These are not insurmountable problems…

    IF FC is staying there, spend this winter digging out the pitchers mound, install a pneumatic/hydraulic system underneath that lifts the tray the new pitchers mound will sit on out of the ground. When the soccer team is playing the “mound” tray is raised and replaced with a tray of the exact same turf the infield is constituted of. When the MLS game is over, the mound tray is reinserted. The mound doesn’t get disturbed or demolished every time the soccer team plays, and the pitch dimensions can now be widened and, more importantly, the near side touch line can be moved 30-40′ (roughly) toward the near side stands.

    Second, install additional camera positions in the right field seating areas (they can even be located under the upper deck or hung off the centre field structural steel) so that the tv view will show actual fans in the seats rather than what looks like a half finished soccer stadium.

    These changes would likely cost less than $2m (and I’m being generous there)…. not the $400m postulated for a new soccer only facility. They would address pretty much all the concerns about soccer (and the Pinstripe bowl) at a baseball stadium.

    So, is this about a better NYCFC experience or is it all about the subsidy for two of the richest families around occasionally taking up short term residence in NY?

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