The Case For (and Against) a NYCFC Stadium in Westchester

Westchester County

BY BILL REESE
Staff Writer

Since the expansion club was announced ten months ago, it has been all but a certainty that New York City Football Club would enter Major League Soccer next spring playing in a venue set in the five boroughs.

However, on Thursday afternoon, the Times’ Jack Bell tweeted that NYCFC was considering a temporary stadium in Westchester County, similar to the arrangement the Vancouver Whitecaps had when the Canadian side entered MLS in 2011. This was the first time since the expansion announcement that a venue location outside Bill de Blasio’s jurisdiction had been suggested.

In many ways, Westchester makes a lot of sense for NYCFC, at least on a temporary basis. One way or another, the club seems destined to be based in the Bronx, and while the Long Island suburbs have long been a market coveted by Major League Soccer, the Westchester suburbs are just as lucrative a market and relatively untapped by the cross-river Red Bulls. Planting the team in the northern suburbs would give City FC the chance to connect with one of their core audiences in the hope that they would eventually follow the club back down to the Bronx.

However, finding a temporary home in Westchester may prove just as difficult as finding a permanent home in New York City. There is more open space in Westchester, but what open spaces exist are generally located in the far north reaches of the county, inaccessible from mass transit and major highways. Land is valuable everywhere in the metropolitan area, and there are simply not many 15-20 acre parcels of land that could easily be converted into a temporary stadium, then reverted back once a permanent home is built.

Yonkers NYCFC

Given the lack of viable available spaces in the county, the most reasonable place for NYCFC to place a temporary stadium would be in the parking lot of the Yonkers Raceway. As you can see in the graphic above, a small MLS stadium (I used Chicago’s 18,000 seat Toyota Park as a stand-in) could just barely fit in the corner parking lot. This would allow City FC to piggyback on Yonkers Raceway and Empire City Casino’s existing parking lots. The race track is adjacent to the New York State Thruway, allowing drivers from the five boroughs and the northern suburbs to easily drive to games. The temporary stadium would be about a 20-minute walk from the Mt. Vernon West Metro North station, a station that sees two trains per hour on weekends. Though a temporary venue makes sense for weekday games and Open Cup matches, it is likely that Yankee Stadium would still be used for NYCFC’s inaugural match, any match against the Red Bulls, and any games against the league’s elite squads.

The temporary stadium model is both practical and feasible for NYCFC. The Vancouver Whitecaps entered MLS in 2011 at a temporary structure called Empire Field, which they shared with the CFL’s BC Lions until the post-Olympic renovations on BC Place were complete. Remarkably, the 27,000 seat venue was constructed in a little more than three months by Swiss company Nussli Group, which specializes in temporary stadium structures. The cost of this facility was a jaw-droppingly low $14.4 million Canadian ($15.2 million U.S.).

Should NYCFC go for an Empire Field model, they likely would end up with a smaller capacity and a smaller stadium. Empire Field was suited for CFL football, whose gridiron is 150 yards long and 65 yards wide. Though any construction project in New York State would likely cost more than the $14.4 million Vancouver paid for Empire Field, it would still be pennies on the dollar compared to what NYCFC will eventually spend to build a permanent MLS park. One thing should be noted, any temporary structure would probably have bare-bones plumbing, which would mean that installing a Field Turf surface would be the most practical and cost-effective means of laying a pitch. Installing sprinklers under a grass field would likely prolong construction and increase costs.

Other than the Yonkers Raceway, there are just not a lot of realistic options. In many ways, they’re about 10 years too late to get in on many of the development projects that have transformed cities such as White Plains, Port Chester and New Rochelle in the last decade. Each of those cities has seen a number of tall buildings and mixed-use developments soar above its low-rise skyline. New Rochelle and Port Chester have become, in many ways, what Harrison aspired to become with its long-stalled Riverbend Project.

If City FC are indeed pursuing a temporary stadium in the northern suburbs, it would be yet another roadblock in their run-up to joining MLS. Their existence hadn’t been announced for more than a day before the kibosh was put on the Flushing Meadows Corona Park stadium plan. A proposal to build a stadium in the Bronx on the site of the old Yankee Stadium parking garage was met with opposition from some community members and got a cold shoulder from the new mayor. Even Major League Baseball threw some shade on the idea of City FC playing the majority of its games in the House that Steinbrenner Built. This was never going to be an easy process, though perhaps MLS commissioner Don Garber failed to bring that up while Sheikh Mansour and the Steinbrenner scions were writing their $100 million expansion fee check.

  • Anthony

    it was ALWAYS a terrible decision to bring them in with no stadium plan and no fan support. MLS would have never annoucend an expansion in any other market with so few pieces in place. They wanted the 100M for theother owners at that was it. That is all they cared about…expansion in NYC should have waited…the Cosmos tried to tell them that too…

    • Anonymous

      Exactly.

  • Daniel

    Could your bias be anymore blatant? I can’t wait for NYCFC to make the Red Bulls irrelevant and to see this site’s credibility go down with it

    • Rob

      Pot… meet kettle.

    • Daniel — you would be hard pressed to find a site that consistently calls it as evenly as we do — across red, green or blue lines. The longer you stick around, the more you will understand that. Enjoy the coverage.

    • Daniel i am Cosmos to the core & an original fan of the team & this site has made leaps & bounds since it began & has some of the best coverage of the Tri State area Soccer scene as well as USMNT. When each team is talked about you get the Good the Bad & the Ugly of each team. #NYCFC was ill conceived from the get go. It’s nice to take 100 million & think your going to do as you please, well it doesn’t work that way in NY & if your from NY you should already know that going in.

    • rafael

      Daniel – Not happy with content, go to another site. EOS has been as unbias as possible, in fact as a RBNY fan sometimes I question their loyalty. They call it as they see it. You speak of credibility? NYCFC will be nothing more than the minor leage team for Man City…not a real MLS team.

    • Anonymous

      spoken like a true idiot with no clue of the political landscape or the level of greed MLS is involved in to survive.

  • Sam U El

    Yeah… Keep waiting for that.

    • Daniel

      It shouldn’t take too long. 18 years in MLS and the Red Bulls have only won one trophy.

      • SupportTheLocal

        47 years in the NFL and the Jets have only won one trophy. So? They’re still around. Eagles have 0- still a team. You support the team you have, not the team with the most trophies. Fandom 101. (Unless you’ve been a ‘die-hard’ Manchester City fan since like 2010, in which case, never mind).

  • Morgan

    Build it along the New York City subway or you are making a HUGE mistake.

  • Anonymous

    This is the NYCFC club and MUST PLAY in the city since first game !!! the Yankee stadium MUST BE the temporary stadium !!!!

  • TMP

    Stadium opponents haven’t even launched a PR campaign highlighting Mansour’s human rights abuses yet.
    That’s a powerful trump card to be holding in reserve.
    Anybody who wants to stop this stadium can use that to rile up any number of communities.

    • Goodfella

      if i was NYFC, i’d broker a short term lease deal with Columbia U. Either add some temporary seating to the soccer stadium (space on the practice field) get is up to 15K or so, OR dump some money into the football field and pay for the grass field. A train and 1 train blocks away.

      http://www.gocolumbialions.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=9600&ATCLID=3689157

      • Bill Reese

        We brought this up in our list of possible NYCFC stadium locations . One big reason it’ll never happen is that the field is technically named for Bob Kraft, who owns the Patriots and the NE Revolution.

        He doesn’t care much for his own MLS club, so why would he help another?

        • Goodfella

          The Football stadium is Kraft Field at Lawrence Wien Stadium. Kraft donated the money to pay for the new field turf a few years back, he has no input into how the field is used. It’s in use for lacrosse, feild hockey etc most nights. I doubt Bob is running the approval process…

  • Austin Wetherby

    Have been a NYCFC fan for 6 years now when we were talking about a team here when the borough boys were created. I will not support this team if they go to westchester, it goes against the whole principle of playing in new york city. Id rather be a red bulls fan which would be easier to get to then this mess. The only reason NYRB doesnt sell out every game is us NYC residents fricken hateeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee leaving nyc for anything lol. And that is the honest truth. NYC is to big and complex to want to go there. I mean it takes and hour and a half to get home from work sometimes and its only a few miles away. id rather route for Beckham United than a non nyc team

  • Tim F.

    I hope they find a location for the stadium in Westchester county.

  • Pingback: Soccer Blog | NYC Pro Soccer Update: Red Bulls Drop Opener, Cosmos Eye Stadium Deal()

  • Anonymous

    Have you looked into memorial field in mt.vernon

    • Bill Reese

      Big enough for maybe a 10-12k seater temporary stadium, but not much else. If you’re not going to be transit adjacent, you need a big footprint for parking lots. And God help anyone trying to get back on the Hutch after the final whistle.

  • Keith

    Would love a new MLS stadium at the Nassau Coliseum site once the islanders move to Brooklyn.

  • Pingback: Rlj Plumbing Port Chester Ny | Top Plumbing Company()

  • Hopefully the temporary option can be close to public transportation so that the field is more accessible!