How Did a NYCFC Game End Up in Hartford?

greetings-from-connecticut

NYCFC logoNew York City FC will move to Connecticut for a weekend after the rescheduling of a New York Yankees game. It is an embarrassing moment for a club that had gotten lucky with the weather and the needs of its landlord for the first two-and-a-half years of existence. It is a moment that may repeat itself.

Based on conversations with those at the club and league, NYCFC’s move to Hartford for the game on Sept. 23 was the culmination of a nine-week process that involved several departments at the club, the Houston Dynamo, Major League Soccer, the Yankees, Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball. City was informed that the Yankees had rescheduled a rained-out game to Sept. 25 and spent six weeks attempting to work out an arrangement that would keep the game at Yankee Stadium. Those attempts failed and after three more weeks, the club completed a contract with the State of Connecticut and Spectra Venue Management to play at Pratt & Whitney Stadium.

“I had a say, but it was not a decision that I took by myself,” NYCFC Coach Patrick Vieira said. “The club made a decision because every department is really important. We want the fans to be happy, the players and myself want to play on a good field. We took every aspect of the game into consideration but then we made a decision, a club decision.”

Several sticking points came up during the six-week process of attempting to keep the game at Yankee Stadium. While the club could have attempted to play the game as scheduled, the Yankees expressed concern that field would not be turned over in time for the next Monday’s makeup game. That has been a concern held by the Yankee organization and players dating to NYCFC’s origin. The Yankees did offer alternative dates but that would have involved moving the game to the middle of the week, something City’s sporting department, the Dynamo, MLS and Unímas (the broadcaster) objected to.

As a result, City was forced to look into other venues but there are conflicting accounts as to whether Red Bull Arena was an option. The New York Red Bulls declined to comment. Although there is precedent for New York teams in other sports to temporarily or permanently share venues, NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls were not able or interested in reaching an agreement even at MLS’ behest, depending on whom you ask. A City official did say that should the need to move another NYCFC game arise, renting a large stadium like Citi Field or MetLife Stadium was within the club’s budget.

That could arise for the MLS Cup playoffs depending on how NYCFC finishes the season and if the Yankees make a run to the World Series. If City does not clinch a first-round bye but finishes third or fourth, then it would host a play-in game scheduled for either Oct. 25 or 26, according to the playoff schedule released on Wednesday by MLS. The second game of the World Series is scheduled for Oct. 25 and the third is scheduled for Oct. 26, providing inadequate time for the field to be converted from soccer to baseball.

As for the game in Hartford, City will attempt to make the experience as normal as possible by holding events and player appearances in Connecticut. The club confirmed that alcohol will be available for purchase at the game. Fans, however, need to exchange and purchase tickets, exchange their tickets for another game at Yankee Stadium or refund their tickets. Transportation options to the notoriously difficult to access stadium are being arranged as well.

“We just have to prepare for the game like it is a home game,” Vieira said. “Of course it is not a home game but to have a good field, to play at the same time was really important to us. Sometimes, things happen that makes it difficult but we have to deal with it on the sporting side. Hopefully the fans turn up and support the team. We’ve been careful with all the options that we have and try to choose the best one for the football club. When you’re talking about the football club, we’re talking about the fans as well so we believe that is the best option for us.”