NYCFC: South Bronx waterfront stadium? What South Bronx waterfront stadium?

When somebody (presumably the developers) leaked plans last week for a South Bronx development plan that would include an NYC F.C. soccer stadium — and as much as $422 million in land subsidies — the state Empire State Development agency immediately disavowed any notion that it was a done deal, while the soccer team itself remained mum. They’ve broken their silence now, though, and appear to be backing away from the plan as fast as humanly possible:

New York City FC president Jon Patricof says that a tract of land at Harlem River Yards is not an area of focus for a proposed stadium site…

“We submitted something to the State [of New York] as part of a request for expressions of interest,” said Patricof about the Harlem River Yards site. “But that’s it. That site is not an active site.”

That’s not a definitive “no way, no how,” but it’s pretty close — after all, if Patricof just wanted to say that lots of sites were still under consideration including the Harlem River yards, he could have just said that. “Not an active site” is as much cold water as he can possibly throw on it without shrieking “No, no, a thousand times no!”

If I had to take a wild-ass guess, I would say that it sounds like the developers were looking to place a bid on the South Bronx land, thought, “Hey, I bet we could get some additional support for this if it looked like we were solving NYC F.C.’s stadium problem,” asked the team, “Mind if we include you in this?” and the team owners said, “Sure, what the hell.” But now that it looks controversial — in addition to the hugely discounted land price, local organizers have long sought this parcel to be part of a waterfront greenway — NYC F.C.’s owners (the Abu Dhabi royal family and the Yankees, pretty much) figure there are better places to cast their bets. Even if this plan did have some affordable housing to make the mayor happy and light-up bridges to please the governor.

NYCFC Bronx stadium plan could hit $422m in subsidies, isn’t even a formal proposal yet

I spent a good chunk of yesterday researching that report of a new NYC F.C. stadium to be built in the South Bronx for this Village Voice article, and uncovered a few more things:

  • Not only did developer Keith Rubinstein (who’s actually part of the development group behind the new plan, along with NYC F.C. and Stephen Ross) pay $58 million for five acres of adjacent land just three years ago, but he sold it again for $165 million earlier this month. At that price per acre, then, the 12.8-acre site being targeted for the soccer stadium should be worth $432 million — and yet the development proposal offers New York state a mere $10 million (in present value) worth of future lease payments.
  • And that’s not even counting any tax breaks the project would get from not paying property taxes, thanks to being built on state land. The state could always demand payments in lieu of taxes as part of any deal, but there’s no guarantee that would bring in as much revenue as if the land were delivered to private hands and put on the property-tax rolls.
  • Though the New York YIMBY article that leaked the stadium plan made it sound like all but a done deal, it’s far from that: The state Empire State Development agency has only issued a Request for Expressions of Interest, which is what it does while trolling for potential bidders for a formal Request for Proposals, and it doesn’t even have a timetable yet for issuing an RFP. So the Ross/Rubinstein/NYC F.C. proposal isn’t even really a proposal yet, more like a brightly colored press packet with delusions of grandeur.

And speaking of that press packet, I got it last night from ESD, and oh man, is it over the top. Some highlights:

  • The soccer stadium “is an essential element of our transformation plan, bringing an iconic, facility – unique in the City –that will give this too-often under-appreciated community a distinctive identity and widespread recognition.” (All weird-ass grammar and punctuation in the original.) I thought giving Port Morris/Mott Haven a “distinctive identity” was what the Piano District fiasco was supposed to be all about, but I guess you can’t have too many distinctive identities, or something.
  • Under “Stadium Benefits,” the proposal includes: “Stadium cost is estimated to be $75m more expensive than a stadium built on a development site without rail tracks to build over.” They’re building an extra-spendy stadium just so freight trains can keep passing through like they already do now! It’s like money in your pocket!
  • KidZania, a “miniature kids’ size city that combines inspiration, fun and learning through realistic role play for children 4-14.” And in case you don’t give a crap about kids, it would also “generate economic activity in all seasons, and local job opportunities.”
  • There will be no dedicated parking, thanks to all the subway stations within a few blocks; instead, fans who insist on driving “will be directed to park at the nearby Yankee Stadium and arrive via a dedicated stadium shuttle network, which could include rail, bus, ferry and bicycle.” Yankee Stadium is almost two miles from the proposed soccer stadium site.
  • This, whatever this is:

And there is so much more — the damn thing goes on for 159 pages, though many of them are just such things as photos of kids holding astronaut helmets. (See for yourself at the links to the full proposal below.)

It looks like ESD has only received one other proposal for the rail yards so far — from a housing developer that is interested in building there, but doesn’t give a proposed sale price for the land — but that’s not unexpected at this stage of the game, especially when the two biggest Bronx developers (plus NYC F.C., which is part-owned by the Yankees, who are the big dogs in the South Bronx) are already in cahoots on a single plan. Real estate monoculture is bad for taxpayers and other living things.

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NYC F.C. could get its own nine-figure state land gift, for a Bronx stadium

And then there’s this, via the real estate blog New York YIMBY:

YIMBY has the first look at an enormous project coming to the South Bronx waterfront, dubbed Harlem River Yards, submitted to the city by a Related-led partnership. The plans would rise adjacent to Somerset Partners’s assortment of new towers already in the works, adding another major affordable housing building, as well as the City’s first dedicated soccer stadium, with 26,000 seats, designed by Rafael Viñoly. The total cost is projected at $700 million.

The partnership is comprised of Related, Somerset Partners, and the New York City Football Club, which would be the occupying team for the new stadium.

The railyard RFP actually was open for expressions of interest more than a year ago, so if NYC F.C. and its partners — Related is the realty giant run by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross — have been secretly planning this, they’ve been secretly planning it for a while. The YIMBY report doesn’t say anything about any public money being involved, though it does say Related and Somerset would pay $500,000 a year on a ground lease for 12.8 acres of state land; developer Keith Rubinstein (of “Piano District” fame, and also the principal of Somerset Partners) spent $58 million for five acres just one bridge over a couple of years back, so if that’s any gauge, the state should be getting more like $10 million a year in rent, which would a total state subsidy of about $130 million in present value.

There’s also the question of whether an MLS stadium can even fit on the site without some major reworking of the Harlem River waterfront. Here’s the rendering of the site provided by YIMBY:

And here’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, pasted over the site by me via Google Maps and Photoshop:

I mean, maybe, if the architects are super-creative and trim the corners just right? But soccer pitches only come in one size, and Red Bull Arena is pretty compact already, so I’d like to see something with actual measurements before saying for sure that this wouldn’t require closing streets or moving navigable shipping lanes.

Plus, keep in mind this is only a proposal — the state Empire State Development agency still would need to approve it as the winner. In any case, expect lots more on this tomorrow once the rest of the New York media gets hold of it…

Islanders and NYCFC shed no light whatever on their Belmont bids

There was a public “listening session” yesterday on plans for redeveloping land alongside Belmont Park, and both the New York Islanders and NYC F.C. made presentations, and “details” were “revealed,” according to the New York Post headline, and oh boy oh boy let’s see what we’ve got:

Reps for the NYCFC soccer organization, which currently plays at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, say the team’s plans for a 26,000-seat stadium at the Elmont, LI, site would also include 400,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, 15.3 acres of open space, a 5-acre park and 2-acre soccer facility…

The Islanders’ plan calling for an 18,000-seat arena was revealed to include an entertainment hub, hotel and retail village.

Wait, that’s it? We already knew pretty much all that — not down to the tenth of an acre, sure, but “sports facility accompanied by other development” was both teams’ plan all along. No details about how this would be funded? No renderings? Come on, we gotta at least get some renderings!

That’s not a rendering! There aren’t even any fireworks or lens flare! This Monday sucks.

(Here’s a video of the Islanders’ developer talking about how he used to build snowmen with Mets co-owner Jeff Wilpon when they were kids, which is something, I guess.)

Friday roundup: Battles over Blues arena, Vegas bond subsidy, Belmont land for Islanders

Let’s get right to this week’s remainders:

Friday roundup: Raiders talk lease extension, Rams attendance woes may set record, and more!

Here’s what you missed this week, or rather what I missed, or rather what I saw at the time but left till Friday because there are only so many hours in the week, man:

NYCFC, Islanders to go head-to-head for Belmont Park land as potential new home

Today is the deadline for responses to New York state’s Request For Proposals for redeveloping a plot of land near Belmont Park racetrack just outside the New York City border, and it looks like the Islanders are going to have some sports competition for their arena plans after all:

New York City FC, the pro soccer team partly owned by the Yankees, is preparing the submit a bid to build a soccer stadium on the state-run property in Elmont, Long Island, near the Queens border, sources told The Post Monday night…

NYCFC would partner with developer Related Co. in its proposal, sources said. … The Islanders bid is expected to include teaming up with Sterling Project Development, which is controlled by the majority owners of the Mets; and Oak View Group, which is backed by Madison Square Garden, owners of the NHL’s Rangers and National Basketball Association’s Knicks.

The state Empire State Development Corporation told me it won’t be releasing the RFP responses, so we’re going to have to depend on whatever the Islanders and NYC F.C. tell us about their plans, which isn’t likely to be much. (Though I do eagerly anticipate some wacky renderings with lots of fireworks going off.) The prospect of two sports franchises going at it for the same land at least raises the possibility of a Seattle-style bidding war here, which could only be good for New York state taxpayers. More news, and pretty pictures, tomorrow, I hope.

NYCFC are terrible at home, terrible home to blame

As many of you are probably aware, I’m a strong proponent of finding ways to get use out of existing sports venues instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build new ones, mostly because they’re almost never worth it and so somebody (i.e., Mr. and Mrs. Q. Taxpayer) usually ends up having to foot the bill. I’m willing to admit, though, that NYCFC squeezing an MLS field into a baseball stadium may not have been the best idea of all time:

Unlike the NFL, where every field conforms to precise dimensions, a soccer pitch can vary within FIFA (and in this case, MLS) regulations. In the case of Yankee Stadium, that means a smaller field, which robs teams of their space to create — and the Stadium offers the smallest playing surface in the league. For a finesse club like NYCFC, that is the equivalent of the Yankees sending out a lineup devoid of lefty power to take advantage of the short right-field porch…

And at 110 yards by an MLS-minimum 70 yards, or a Hobbit-sized 7,700 square yards, the small field makes NYCFC easier to press and close down. The next-smallest fields are 8,250 square yards and eight are at least 9,000 square yards.

While all this is sad if you’re an NYCFC supporter and fairly entertaining if you’re not — they lost a game last year when an opposing player practically threw the ball into the goal from the sideline, which is hilarious — it’s important to note that this is no one’s fault but NYCFC’s own: They chose to place a team in New York with nowhere to play but New Yankee Stadium, and then chose to sign a bunch of finesse players with famous names who would be at a huge disadvantage playing on a small pitch. Talks about a new stadium in upper Manhattan have gone approximately nowhere, and there’s really no reason for the city to put itself out to solve a problem of the team’s own making, so NYCFC will likely just need to suck it up and rebuild its roster to play in cramped surroundings for the foreseeable future. To do otherwise would be like the Colorado Rockies demanding a pressurized dome to make up for the fact that they unexpectedly found the air thin in Denver — oh, crap, I’m giving people ideas again, aren’t I?

Yankees order NYCFC to stop taking print-at-home tickets, fans locked out of stadium for home opener

I wrote up an article for Vice Sports on Friday on how several sports teams, including the New York Yankees and Minnesota Timberwolves, have banned the use of print-at-home tickets, ostensibly to prevent fraud and counterfeiting but really because it allows them to control the resale of tickets via their own phone apps. I didn’t cover it here because it’s not really so much about stadiums, but following yesterday’s fiasco at NYCFC‘s home opener, I can’t resist:

NYCFC, which plays at Yankee Stadium, announced Friday that the team would no longer accept paper tickets, but the policy would be phased in.

The change—shockingly—led to chaos at Sunday’s NYCFC game.

Apparently what happened is that NYCFC allowed the use of print-at-home tickets, but required that they be “verified” before fans could enter, whatever that means. (Isn’t verification what the scanners at the turnstiles do?) The result was that shortly before game time (it’s hard to tell whether this was taken eight minutes before game time or just posted then), the inside of the stadium looked like this:

With NYCFC half owned by the Yankees, I can’t wait to see how they to resolve this by suggesting that fans all get their fingerprints scanned.

UPDATE: We have our first eyewitness report, and it indicates that the problem yesterday may have been due more to incompetence than intent:

UPDATE #2: An NYCFC official says the problem wasn’t the print-at-home tickets, which were accepted at all gates, but an eight-minute malfunction with the turnstile scanners that backed up the queues at the peak of pregame entry. Still awaiting word back on what the “verification” process was that had tickets scanned once before fans went through security and once after.

NYCFC mulls tearing down Columbia football stadium, building most expensive MLS stadium ever

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.