New York City F.C. has finally settled on a possible new stadium site, and it’s not way out in Queens, but actually in Manhattan. Barely:
New York City F. C., owned jointly by royalty from the United Arab Emirates and the Yankees, is considering a move to Columbia University’s Baker Athletics Complex, at the northern tip of Manhattan. … The proposal is to build a new, larger stadium that could be used by the soccer team and Columbia’s football team. …
The plan, according to an executive briefed by the soccer club, would be to demolish the 17,000-seat Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium and replace it with a 25,000-seat stadium that could be used by New York City F.C. and Columbia’s Lions. The new stadium could cost $400 million.
There is much that is crazy-sounding here — for starters, the site is a long, long subway ride from anywhere other than upper Manhattan, and doesn’t offer much in the way of parking — but nothing more so than that $400 million figure, which would be more than $100 million more than the most expensive MLS stadium ever built. I know that the NYC F.C. owners desperately want to get a soccer-only facility within city limits, and the UAE has money to burn, and potentially Columbia could be involved monetarily here too … still, this seems like a nutso amount of cash to spend on a soccer stadium in the U.S., and something the team is unlikely to recoup.
That’s NYC F.C.’s owners’ problem, of course, unless they decide to ask for public subsidies and make it New York City taxpayers’ problem. (They wouldn’t owe property taxes, for one thing, since the land is already tax-exempt by virtue of being owned by Columbia — the Chrysler Building, oddly, gets a similar tax break.) There’s a lot still to be worked out here, but at least we have a likely location where this next battle is going to play out.
NYC F.C. held their opening game yesterday, and nobody tripped and fell on the temporary sod that was laid down as a soccer pitch. So, success! Also, the team won and David Villa scored a real pretty goal, so a good time was had by all.
For our unintentional laughs, then, we’ll have to turn to MLSsoccer.com’s article on the “rich soccer history” of ersatz Yankee Stadium, which has included several European friendlies! Also, Pele played a bunch of times in the stadium that had the same name across the street! It’s practically a soccer mecca! If you overlook the fact that the tiny pitch they squeezed in is smaller than all but one in the Premier League, but hey, short porches are part of the Yankee tradition.
And elsewhere in F’ed-Up Field Friday, the stadium that inherited the name Yankee Stadium from the real Yankee Stadium is set to host NYC F.C.‘s home opener in just two days, and yow:
That’s one bad-looking soccer pitch. Presumably they’re laying down sod as you read this (for once it’s not snowing in New York right now) — which they have to do in part anyway to cover the dirt infield — but playing sports on freshly laid sod doesn’t always work out so well. As with the Wrigley Field situation, conditions will no doubt be playable, but it’ll be interesting to see how well it works out.
And as for when the baseball season starts, at least one Yankees player is already preparing for the worst:
“It’s going to suck,” Teixeira told the Daily News, “but you have to deal with it. It’s going to tear up the infield, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so we’ll deal with it.”
But then, Teixeira already has years of experience with unavoidable situations that destroy his infield.
This was buried deep in an article in Saturday’s New York Daily News, so thanks to Dave Martinez of Empire of Soccer for spotting it: One of the board members of New York City F.C. says the team’s search for a stadium site is now focused on Queens or Brooklyn:
“We had focused on the Bronx, but that didn’t work out, and we weren’t able to find anything else in the Bronx that made sense,” [New York property attorney Martin] Edelman says. “So we’re looking in Queens and Brooklyn, and each potential [site] has to be analyzed for construction, for access to public transportation, for parking, it’s a very complicated process.
“There’s no rush, but there’s a rush. In other words we’re not going to just settle for something, we’re going to find a place where everybody is comfortable doing it, and it makes economic sense to do it. But we’re not just sitting and waiting for the place to come to us.”
That’s a really long-winded way of saying “we don’t know yet,” obviously. The only potentially interesting tidbit is the mention of Brooklyn, which hasn’t previously been discussed as a possible stadium site for NYC F.C., largely because there are no large available unused sites near public transit in Brooklyn where you could easily stick a soccer stadium. (I know because we went through this ten years ago with proposed alternative locations for the Brooklyn Nets arena, and there wasn’t much there.) The one possible wild card could be the Broadway Junction train hub, which Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has targeted for redevelopment as a college campus, mall, or other large anchor project. It’s not clear that there’s room on the city’s site map for a soccer stadium, and you’d hope de Blasio knows that a building that’s dark 340 days a year is a lousy anchor for redevelopment, and yes, I’m completely speculating wildly here. But you come up with a more reasonable site in Brooklyn — unless you think that Edelman is just saying “Brooklyn” to try to get some buzz about the team going in Sweden, which is entirely possible.
Still getting nowhere on talks for a new soccer stadium in the Bronx, NYC F.C. is now reportedly looking to a site near Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, according to Capital New York:
Sources told Capital the club is now looking to develop the site near the racetrack because there is an abundance of land primed for development.
“They want to bring World Cup soccer into Queens because the deal in the Bronx fell through,” the source said.
Ah, the old “sources close to the negotiations.” This could be either someone with the team (or the city) intentionally trying to leak information as a trial balloon, or someone who just likes to gossip and may or may not know what’s going on — hard to say, really, without more information. Nobody in journalism even bothers to read those ethics guidelines, do they?
In case the idea of a pro soccer stadium at a New York racetrack sounds familiar to you, that was a different soccer team with a different racetrack. Aqueduct at least has the benefit of being within city limits (barely — it’s way out by JFK airport); the land in question was previously proposed as the site of a convention center funded by a giant casino, until everybody realized what a terrible idea that was. (There’s currently a smaller “racino” at Aqueduct, which is only a terrible idea for certain people.)
No details about how an Aqueduct stadium would be funded, of course, or whether NYC F.C. would pay for the land (there are parcels there owned by both the city and state) or property taxes on a stadium, because unnamed sources don’t have to answer questions, see? There would also likely have to be transit upgrades to make a soccer stadium workable — of the two nearby subway stations, one only has a northboard platform so forces riders to go past the stop then doubling back, and the other requires a transfer to a shuttle bus. So there’s a lot still to be answered here, once somebody starts asking questions of people with actual names and faces.
There have been soccer matches at the new Yankee Stadium before, but with NYC F.C. set to take the pitch there next spring, more soccer writers are starting to sit up and take notice. So it was that SB Nation watched yesterday’s Liverpool-Manchester City friendly and responded with a resounding ew:
Camera angles that can’t show near the width of the pitch are not good. You can’t see anyone’s runs and even simple 20-yard passes take the ball out of the screen. The camera angle is way too low to adequately show soccer.
And the background for the pitch is a bunch of big ads. Which are broken up by a unused baseball scoreboard. Which is then broken up by a bullpen. Which is then broken up by a batter’s eye.
On top of Yankee Stadium’s unsuitability for TV, it has a very, very narrow pitch and the grass laid over the infield is terrible, causing every ball over it to bounce high.
Now, it’s arguably more important how fans see the game from the actual seats than on TV, but that doesn’t seem so hot either. (Note: I haven’t been to a soccer match there yet myself, nor have I spoken with anyone who has. Commenters, that’s your cue.)
NYC F.C. is in a tough situation, because it desperately wants to be the “city” team in contrast to the New Jersey-based New York Red Bulls — “City” is literally its name, even — but there has been zero interest from the new New York city council leadership in throwing lots of city money, land, or tax breaks at a new soccer-only stadium, and NYC F.C.’s bazillionaire owner has shown zero interest in funding one completely out of his own pocket. Sheikh Mansour apparently decided it was worth an expansion fee of $100 million to get a foothold in the New York market (if for no other reason, to help promote the sale of Man City kits), and MLS decided it was worth putting up with a weird-ass seating chart in order to get a $100 million check. Which is all fine, just so long as nobody starts arguing that this makes it New York City’s problem that NYC F.C. fans have a funny view of the field. But nobody would ever do that, right?
Hey, NYC F.C. Chief Business Officer Tim Pernetti, what’s new on your plans for a soccer-only stadium in New York City, or maybe outside New York City?
Pernetti said there was “nothing new to report” on their search for a permanent stadium deal. “Same boring answer I gave you guys a while back,” he said. “It’s taking some time but at the same time we want to get it right. We want to take the time necessary to make sure we get it right.”
And what about a training facility, now that Manhattanville College has rejected the club’s overtures to train there?
“We are still looking at a couple of different options on a training facility,” Pernetti said. “We are not ready to talk about where we are going to go yet. We are trying to get some things ironed out but we expect to have an answer on that pretty soon.”
Probably best to get used to the weird soccer seating chart for Yankee Stadium, since it looks like the team will be there for a while. Apparently New York is going to be the poster child for teams willing to put up with bizarro seating charts in order to play in the city — which probably makes sense, given the size of the market, but is still an interesting turn of events. And kind of makes you wonder why New York needed to spend so much money on new stadiums for the Mets and Yankees when you can apparently play in a studio apartment and still rake in the dough.
It’s been a busy morning on the stadium news front, so the first I saw of this latest NYC F.C. news came via Twitter:
It’s not quite that bald-faced, but, yeah, New York Yankees president Randy Levine, he of the volcanic temper and purple face, has kind of threatened to move the team out of New York City before it’s even arrived:
“This is here, until there’s another venue,” Levine said. “The Yankees are the primary tenant. The schedule revolves around the Yankees. There’s no timetable. There’s been dialogue, we’re looking at sites. If not New York City, then other sites. I never rule out anything. But I’m one voice.”
New York Daily News sports reporter Filip Bondy goes on to assert that “Yonkers is waiting with open arms for a possible stadium deal,” which is news to pretty much everyone, though there was some speculation about NYC F.C. seeking a temporary stadium in Westchester before they announced their plan to start play at the Yankees’ stadium.
Building outside the city limits would certainly be easier in some respects — there’s a hell of a lot more available land there, and there are numerous mayors and city councils that could be appealed to, instead of the not-all-that-enthused officials currently in charge in New York City. Still, Westchester isn’t that easy for much of the New York area to get to, and you have to figure that Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan isn’t plunking down $200 million for an MLS expansion team just so he can play in the suburbs. For now, consider this somewhere between “we’re keeping all our options open” and “crap, we have to have the Yankees and the soccer team share a stadium for three-plus years, let’s throw everything we can think of out there and see if something sticks.”
In news that should surprise absolutely no one, the New York Times is reporting that the MLS expansion team New York City F.C. will announce next week that it will play at the Yankees’ stadium for the 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons while working on getting a stadium of its own built. This was really the team’s only option: It’s not going to get its $350 million Bronx stadium plan approved and built by next March, there aren’t a whole lot of available soccer-ready stadiums sitting around in New York, and the Yankees are part owners of the team, so it’s the only port in the storm for now. There were (and are) concerns about the impact of soccer usage on the baseball field turf, but apparently those pale in comparison to having to have their soccer team play in the street.
The big question now is how long NYCFC will be stuck in this port. Melissa Mark-Viverito, the new city council speaker who represents the district where the team owners want to build their stadium (with city land and tax subsidies that could amount to more than $250 million), isn’t going anywhere for at least the next four years, and from all accounts she’s just as dead-set against this deal as ever. NYCFC already tried and failed to get a stadium built in Queens, and is rapidly running out of possible sites that are accessible to public transit; I predicted last summer that this could end up as a D.C. United situation, with the team in “temporary” digs for a lot longer than anybody anticipated, and that’s looking even more likely now. Though being stuck in the world’s most lavishly expensive baseball stadium isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world — if NYCFC fans don’t like the view of the pitch, they can always drown their sorrows in $60 steaks.
With plans for NYC F.C.‘s new soccer stadium in the Bronx going nowhere in particular and the new city council speaker remaining opposed to it, the expansion team still needs to announce a site to play in for the 2015 season. And team officials are going to announce one real soon now, they swear:
“We’re close on that. We’ll soon announce where we’ll be playing,” [NYC F.C. director Claudio] Reyna said. “Within the next month. We expect to have an announcement within the next month.”
“Expect to,” check. Reading way, way, between the lines, I’m guessing this is a matter of ironing out any remaining haggles with MLB over maintaining the condition of the field at the Yankees‘ stadium? Either way, I’ll be shocked if NYC F.C. doesn’t play at the Yankees’ home next year, if only because there’s really nowhere else in the city for them to play (except for Citi Field, which would have the same MLB issues and is controlled by the Mets, who are already cranky that the Yankees got a piece of ownership of the MLS franchise and not them), but it may take a while to iron out.
And speaking of taking a while, Reyna had this to say about building a soccer-only stadium:
“We’re still looking, we’re talking to the city,” Reyna said. “There’s a lot of possibilities for the stadium and we’re continuing to do our job, which won’t be easy, but we feel good about it. We have a team of executives that are working very hard to not only get a stadium that we’re happy with, but that is good for the city of New York as well.”
Translation: We got nothing. Wherever NYC F.C. settles in “temporarily,” expect them to be there for a while.