NYCFC Hedges Its Bet With Belmont Bid

NYCFC logoNew York City FC submitted its bid to turn the parking lot south of Belmont Park into a soccer stadium and it seems the only things we know for sure are that it’s not the only site being considered — and a lot of the club’s fans are upset by the bid. Now, as the club tries to have its cake and eat it, too, it will find itself in a precarious position.

The club’s goal of building a home inside the five boroughs has met reality and for the moment, the resolution is to hedge it bet and bid for the state-owned land because the land is cheap, the politics are streamlined and it could get them out of Yankee Stadium by the decade’s end. The Belmont bid won’t be the only site the team pursues, which can be a luxury and a curse. Having simultaneous bids can give the team political leverage for other bidding processes, but things can get awkward because they are trying to win this bidding process.

Both the NHL’s New York Islanders, NYCFC, and the Empire State Development Corporation have reason to make this process proceed as quickly as possible. The ESD let matters drag for four years (amid a bid by the NASL’s New York Cosmos) before withdrawing its request and can’t afford something similar. Both the Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment can opt out of their current agreement at Barclays Center on Jan. 1, and the Islanders are giving themselves until then before deciding to trade star center John Tavares before he becomes a free agent. City president Jon Patricof said the Hartford ordeal, when the team had to shift a game because of a scheduling conflict, pushed the club to accelerate its search, while saying the club is still secure at Yankee Stadium.

The Blumenfield Group also submitted a bid similar to its original that featured a large retail store, playing fields and a community center. It might be the bid that most meets the Elmont community’s needs but their elected officials have had loftier visions. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano floated the site as a location for Amazon‘s second headquarters. He was speaking in front of an audience of local business-owners, but Amazon did not submit a bid and the ESD would have had to withdraw and rewrite the RFP for them to do so. That leaves the state and also the Town of Hempstead, which has to sign off on the bid, with two arenas to choose from and only one bidder desperate to build there.

The New York Times report from Wednesday most accurately reflects City’s current situation but its unclear how serious the Harlem River Yards site is being considered at the moment since the Request for Expressions of Interest closed last March. Two sites in Willets Point are also being considered, corroborating EoS’ reporting, and the GAL elevator site may be back in contention. These sites are more palatable to NYCFC’s fans whose commitment toward supporting a team inside the five boroughs has not wavered.

But the emotional ideals held by fans and club staffers has met a cold reality, there just aren’t that many plots of hand available in the five boroughs or near them that meet their needs. Belmont opened up for the club and they pursued it without a second thought. It’s far from what fans will want to hear but the only thing less ideal than a stadium outside of the five Bboroughs is an indefinite stay at Yankee Stadium.

Should NYCFC’s bid be chosen by the ESD, it is not a given that the club will actually agree to build a stadium at the site. In essence, it is waiting and seeing. It’s not a sign that Belmont is part of a grand plan so much as it being the most convenient site and one that became readily available. And that type of opportunistic, pragmatic logic is going to continue to dominate the club’s search for a stadium inside and outside the five boroughs no matter how inconvenient the venue or how outspoken the fans.

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