Yankees believe Stadium can house NYCFC; MLB not so sure

IMAGE, DAVE MARTINEZ, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

IMAGE, DAVE MARTINEZ, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

It has been long assumed that New York City FC would start their inaugural season playing within the confines of Yankee Stadium. However, the team remains quiet over the site of their temporary home with just over a year until their debut.

Various sources tell EOS that Yankee Stadium is still the front runner to host NYCFC in 2015. However, concerns from Major League Baseball have become a constant road block in those discussions. MLB fears that the playing surface would be damaged from constant usage, leading to player injuries and disruption in play as was experienced in the 70’s when the Cosmos called Yankee Stadium home.

Yankee’s Executive Director of Non-Baseball events, Mark Holtzman, fell short of confirming Yankee Stadium as the team’s eventual home, only offering that an announcement would be made “soon.” However, he strongly defended the Stadium’s capacity to host continuous soccer matches if that happened to be the case.

“I don’t think we would have gotten into this relationship (if we had a problem),” Holtzman said. “The Yankees do nothing until it is thought out and planned out. We realized what we were getting into. Since this new stadium has been built, look at everything that we have done here? We just had the NHL. We have concerts. We are doing a lot of things we didn’t do in the old stadium.

“I think everyone up to the top of the organization understands very well what we were getting into when we made the relationship with Man City. It is a lot more than just the team here in the States. It is a worldwide branding partnership where we can really both benefit from each others brand.”

Safety, he expresses, would not be a concern either. “Baseball is clearly the number one priority,” he says. “We wouldn’t do anything to put anyone in any risk. It’s a major investment here in the players. At the end of the day, we look at these opportunities very careful and we wouldn’t get into these opportunities unless we were very comfortable about the end result.”

Unlike the days of the Cosmos, modern technology has changed the way a baseball stadium can accommodate separate sporting franchises. Holtzman points to advancements in field care that would help ease the day-to-day usage of the grounds in a way that would not impede the course of either game, while protecting the health of its participants.

“Technology has changed a lot in the last 10-15 years,” he says. “We are able to turn things over a lot faster than back then.” Recent experiences outside of the realm of baseball, he argues, have only bolstered the stadium crew’s ability to present a playable surface in short time.

“We are looking at a number of options vis-à-vis the mound. We have an operations crew here, second to none. It’s amazing what they have done with concerts and soccer and hockey and everything that we have done in a short period of time. I have all the confidence in the world in [Vice President of Stadium Operations] Doug Behar and his crew that whatever situation we present to them, they are going to be able to do.”

When asked about resistance from Major League Baseball, Holtzman said, “I am really not in the position to comment about that.” However, he did offer that “everyone will be pleased when they see the end result” of the temporary stadium solution.

“The start of the season, 2015, is a year away,” he acknowledges. “We have to sell tickets. There is a lot that has to be done, so clearly there has to be some sort of an announcement soon, I just can’t get into any more specifics at this point.”