New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushing Meadows ambitions

New York City FC Unveil_Levine_Garber_Soriano

The headlines will read “New York Yankees and Manchester City bring professional soccer to the Big Apple,” but there is more to the narrative than just that.

Give Major League Soccer it’s due; they have managed to align themselves with the most respected sporting franchise in the country for the leagues most ambitious business endeavor of all time. Attaching the New York Yankee brand to the vast wealth of Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi ownership group is a sure fire homerun for all involved (no pun intended of course).

However, the glitz and glamor of this announcement also hides a glaring truth; Major League Soccer is abandoning it’s hopes of landing a soccer specific stadium within the confines of Flushing Meadow Corona Park.

One need only dissect the league’s press statement and the content of their ensuing conference call to draw that (logical) conclusion.

Take the announcement at it’s surface as your first clue. Fred Wilpon and the New York Mets wanted to usher in this project before the Bernie Madoff scandal all but took them out of the running. Since then, MLS has plowed forward, seeking a home within the proper limits of Flushing Meadow Park – with or without them.

The fact is, Flushing Meadow cannot happen without the Mets. Why? Because parking space would have to be shared. MLS would need to expand on their already ample 13 acre request to build the necessary roads and lots to accommodate 25-35k visitors a match. With local opposition already balking at the current area projections, the league would then be forced to turn to the Mets.

Now, do you think Wilpon will want to accommodate the New York Yankees in his own backyard?

Reading further into the press release, there are other clues. Here is Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano offering a visible tell.

“New York City FC will have a permanent home in the City in the great traditions of New York sports and world soccer — a home that must be a sports, commercial and civic success,” Soriano said. “But in considering any stadium site, we will listen first. This is what we have always done in Manchester and what we will do in New York. Only in this way, can the Club truly represent the City whose name it will carry.”

“Listening first” is a nod to the overwhelming opposition MLS has received within the Park project itself – one not lost on the Fairness Coalition of Queens.

“We welcome Major League Soccer to New York City. We are pleased with their new willingness to consider other sites in New York. The proposal for a stadium inside the heart of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is deeply flawed and would irrevocably damage a vital community resource,” they said in a statement. “We look forward to finding a more appropriate home for the team that does not sacrifice public parkland and that does not giveaway parkland to a documented human rights abuser. Lets make this a development that all New Yorkers can be excited about.”

For the first time since aggressively pursuing this initiative, Major League Soccer and their latest franchise are leaving the door open to other, perhaps more suitable options for a stadium within the City limits.

“The club says it will continue the discussions already under way with the City of New York, local residents, community and business leaders, and soccer leagues about a possible new stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park (FMCP) in Queens, while also continuing to look at other potential sites,” reads the release.

That was emphasized by Garber in Tuesday’s conference call. The Commissioner deflected questions about a Queens stadium to new Manchester City and Yankee ownership despite the millions of dollars spent by the league in lobbying politicians to land a home on the site of the former World’s Fair. With that, the league washed their hands of the entire affair and put the onus on New York City F.C. to get the job done.

For their part, neither the Yankees nor Manchester City were willing to commit to building upon the work MLS has established over the past two years, but instead, pleaded for patience as they looked to carve their own road.

“We are just starting the process here,” Yankees President Randy Levine noted during Tuesday’s conference call. “A lot of work has been done in Queens. A lot of reasons to be in Queens but we are going to step back – not step back, step forward – because this is the first day for the Yankees.”

This would go a long way in explaining why MLS hasn’t filed for a stadium permit within the City limits. Sources within the New York City Planning and Development board have told Empire of Soccer the league hasn’t even applied a request for land – the first step in any ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) process.

Finally, changes in the league’s timeline should also raise red flags. New York City F.C. will begin play in 2015. Venue? To be determined. Timeline for a soccer specific stadium to be secured? None given.

For the past two years, MLS has targeted 2016 as the year they would not only field their 20th New York franchise, but unveil the club’s soccer specific arena. Their release purposely omits what has been a rigid and guiding timeline.

When New York City F.C. takes the field in 2015, it won’t be in their own proper home. Have recent friendlies and exhibition games in Yankee Stadium encouraged the baseball brass to allow a field sharing deal as they did long ago with the New York Cosmos (Levine seems to think so)? Or will New York City F.C. be forced into the confines of Metlife Stadium, bringing the league back into the swamp that it took 14 years to crawl out of?

No one can deny how important it is for this growing league to continue to add quality ownership groups to an already impressive stable of operators. They should be applauded for their success in luring both Manchester City and the Yankees into the fold.

However, their addition is also a reset in the leagues original expansion plans. MLS chose a difficult path towards a nearly unattainable location. Can New York City F.C. continue their quest for the park? Sure. Will they look for a home in Queens? Perhaps.

What is certain is this; MLS now leaves two years of effort in the hands of an ownership group that is – on the surface – ambivalent about those established goals to begin with. And the possibility always exists that they can settle on the cheaper alternative – setting roots in Yankee Stadium for good.

No matter which direction the franchise seeks to go, Flushing no longer looks like their final destination.

  • New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushi…

  • Bryan

    Dave, I think you overstate the unwillingness of the Yankees/Mets to work together on things like this. They are not fans; they are businessmen, this it outside their primary sports areas so a partnership wouldn’t be unheard of, and if there is a deal to be made that makes sense for all sides it can get done. Plus, the Mets aren’t exactly flush with cash. I am not saying you are wrong – their comments do seem to make clear they are exploring other options, and in light of the community opposition I certainly would not be saying differently today – I just would not be so quick to assume Flushing Meadows is a dead issue because the Mets-Yankees can’t work together. To the contrary, one could argue that the weight of the Mets, Yankees, Mayor’s office, and Man City could be what is needed to get Flushing Meadows done. Just saying.

    • Mayor is leaving … Mets don’t make enough in parking deal to make this a worthwhile venture … and aesthetically, Mets fans would kill them for bowing to the Yanks on their home turf.

      • The Other Bryan Lewis

        But Dave, it doesn’t have to be a “parking deal.” It could be further shared ownership. Look, this was an idea that the Mets wanted to push through just a few years ago. They may not be lead dog anymore, but a good idea is a good idea, and a % of a good idea is still something. All I am saying is that you are thinking like a fan when you say Mets/Yankees can’t do something together outside of baseball – it’s an overly simplistic view. To me, the only thing that would be a true non-starter is if the Mets ownership still had visions of bringing their own team to Flushing at some point. If that were the case, then I could see them balking at an approach by NYCFC.

        By the way, call me completely cynical, but I take all the talk yesterday about listening to the community before determining a site was pure opening-day window dressing. They are just resetting the discussion with the community groups opposing the Flushing proposal, and distancing themselves from what MLS office has been doing, so they can take another shot at getting them on board. “Hey community groups, it’s MFC/Yankees here. I know you were upset with how MLS was trying to force this through without listening to you – crazy, I know, can’t believe they did that, total jerk move by them. But we’re not them. We’re MFC. And the NYY. And we’re in charge now, not MLS. Let’s talk. We want to hear all of your concerns. Maybe we can even work together. . . .”

        Bottom line, I think in a few weeks you are going to hear about how NYCFC has been actively engaging with the community groups in an effort to get Flushing back into the mix. It may not work, but I do think it is still on the table and that they are going to at least give it a shot.

    • Agree completely.

  • Fascinating. RT @samboykin How the NYC FC spells death of MLS’ plans to build in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park:

  • Thank you Dave! You are on the money! No other soccer journalist is getting this.

  • simon_m

    I beg the powers that be…No to playing in Yankee Stadium, not even for half the season, too many empty seats, no way we we’re gonna sell more than 25% of the place each game
    No No No ( stamping my foot too, Dave) to playing in Met Life. What’s the M**F** point to that????
    NYCFC plays in NYC or there’s no point in having a team at all. If the Metros had done it right in the first place, RBMetro would be selling out by now. Punto

    Having the stadium/arena in the park next to the BKJ Tennis Center where they host the US Open is future home of NYCFC. The sooner they realize that, the sooner they can start digging. And start building. Its best spot in the best location. Outside of doing something incredible with Icahn Stadium where its mere existence is free advertising.
    Lets have none of this ‘we’ll play anywhere’ crap! How about Aviator Field? NO! Get it done and do it right before game #1 and New Yorkers will respect the team and show up. But first the owners need to show up and build a home for the team.

    Look at the blueprint– did Jay Z offer up the biggest high school in Brooklyn for the Nets to play in while he was working on the Barclay Center deal? No, he built it and they played in their new home in the first game of the season.

    If ya gonna come, ya gotta come correct!

    • So we will soon have a New Jersey Red bulls, a Long Island Cosmos, and a Westchester FC… right?

    • You don’t recall them playing in Newark for two years? I’m pretty sure they would’ve opted for a Brooklyn HS gym. Also, playing in Yankee Stadium, while not perfect, is a tremendous temporary set up. Think of the praise they get whenever they do international games. Don’t believe me? Go see MCFC v Chelsea ay there in a few days. It’s a special thing.

      • I loved the Yankee stadium friendlies – covered both last year. Atmospere was great – sight lines? Not so much. Can work but not sure if it will long term for both soccer team and baseball side.

  • Disagree @CesarDiazNYC @EmpireOfSoccer New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushing Meadows ambitions: #MLS #NY2

  • @viperRBNY @NYCSportsFan14 well … without a doubt not be in Flushing Meadows Park .. but ya … #NYCFC

  • New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushing Meadows ambitions #mls #nycfc #mlstoqueens

  • Good take Dave. In short Madoff sinks Mets MLS alliance. Light blue pinstripes on the horizon. Go Red Bulls!

  • Patrick Lucas

    I love the name, NYC Football club , I hate that soccer thing

  • New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushing Meadows ambitions via @EmpireOfSoccer

  • @CascadiaGuy @MarkFishkin here ya go …

  • New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushi…

  • Pingback: Cupstets, OC protest, Kleberson’s time, NYCFC is No. 20, more news()

  • New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushing Meadows ambitions via @EmpireOfSoccer

  • over/under on NYC FC playing in a soccer-specific stadium: July 1, 2019. Over or under? (Under means before 7-1-19.)

  • Pingback: The team that Garber built: NYCFC is MLS team No. 20()

  • New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushing Meadows ambitions

  • Marc Silverstein

    either Hunts Point in the Bronx or the old Forest Hills tennis stadium…take you pick

  • New York City FC spells death of MLS’ Flushing Meadows ambitions via @EmpireOfSoccer

  • Pingback: Required Reading: New York City F.C.()

  • Pingback: Bronx Prez says NYCFC "walked away" from Queens Stadium plans()

  • They are sponsored websites so the results of the search word.
    It can be made ahead and kept in the fridge while the shredded chicken is being prepared.
    url + ‘” class=”adline1_title_link” target=”_blank”>’ +.

  • Pingback: Report: NYCFC Pursuit of Land Near Yankee Stadium Stalls()