by ANTHONY J. MERCED
Both New York City FC and the New York Cosmos have a similar problem, with little wiggle room for error. Neither of them has a home and both of them are quickly running out of options in an increasingly difficult real estate market.
Recently, NYCFC have turned their attention towards the Aqueduct Racetrack; a 22-acre piece of land that currently houses New York City’s only proper Casino. It is the third major initiative by the club for stadium land, starting with their Flushing Meadows ambitions and then leading towards the failed purchase of property in the South Bronx.
The Aqueduct will be no shoe-in, with local politicians already giving lukewarm responses to its potential construction.
Meanwhile, the Cosmos are nearing year two on their Elmont Crossing Proposal; a full-on redevelopment deal that includes, at its heart, a 25k seat stadium. Answering a state solicitation, this is clearly the most direct path towards building an Arena, but even that is no guarantee.
With the Belmont site touching the border of Queens, and the Aqueduct in play, is there any reason why both clubs shouldn’t pursue a joint solution to their identical problem?
It Has Worked Before
Despite what many may think, the idea of shared venues is something that has been successfully accomplished in American sports and has proven to be equally beneficial to the franchises involved.
The NFL, NBA and NHL have all found success sharing venues, so why is there any belief that two soccer teams would be different? Look no further than the New York Giants and New York Jets, who have shared in massive revenues from the new state-of-the-art Metlife Stadium. The new digs not only helped garner record season ticket sales, but also grabbed other major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and international soccer friendlies.
All of these things, aside from hosting a Super Bowl, are possible for the Cosmos and NYCFC. Over fifty games between them can guarantee constant use and a steady stream of revenue, further expanding the usage and commerce of any potential stadium site.
A Combined Stadium Means Constant Action
For NYCFC, the hope of grabbing a location in the Bronx has taken a severe step in the wrong direction. So much so that the new organization is already looking at alternatives, eying the Aquaduct Racetrack as a real possibility. Not only has it already been zoned off for entertainment but, as previously stated, the area around the Resort World Casino is in desperate need of rejuvenation. By themselves, NYCFC can promise no more than twenty-five to thirty games a year. With the Cosmos, that grows to a near-sixty games — and that doesn’t include potential friendlies (something that Red Bull Arena has only moderately taken advantage of).
The location may not be perfect, but it is accessible by the MTA (something that Red Bull Arena has going against it). Midweek games could see easier transportation routes with less travel for people in the five boroughs, leading to more people in the seats with more games to choose from.
If the Aqueduct isn’t an option, then maybe Belmont is. Having the backing of a Sheik Mansour and the promise of both MLS and NASL action would be a huge boon to the redevelopment plans of Elmont, bringing not one, but two professional leagues to Long Island; two more than they will have next year.
In essence, a duel purpose soccer stadium could become a hub for the World’s Game in the World’s City.
Let Go of the Idea that NYCFC and the Cosmos Are Enemies
The idea that NYCFC and the Cosmos are on opposing ends of some sort of power struggle has been exaggerated greatly.
Overall, there is no competition. The Cosmos and both New York MLS sides can exist, co-exist and succeed the same way every other sport in New York has succeed with multiple franchises. Should they combine their efforts, the Cosmos would never need to worry about dueling home fixtures and effectively eliminate the need to counter promote. Similar to the Giants and Jets, the Cosmos and NYCFC would dig in to their own fanbases and effectively play off of each other to grow their start-up efforts.
In effect, they would be combining their wallets in order to spread the word of New York soccer. They could even promote a yearly friendly between the sides similar to how the Jets and Giants handle their preseason games.
Any animosity that may exist is fan created. As businesses, the Cosmos and NYCFC couldn’t be more different. Their leagues and structures make it more possible to coexist than ever before. The NASL has a laissez-faire approach to team spending. While never revealed, the Cosmos more than likely have a player payroll similar to an MLS side despite playing in the 2nd division. They have the ability to spend money in ways that NYCFC can only dream of. On the flipside, NYCFC has SUM and the tremendous machine that is MLS.
Combined, both sides could do what US Soccer has always hoped for by effectively creating a soccer haven within the boundaries of New York City.
All they have to do is work together to make it happen.