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A stadium for New York City FC – tougher than you think

May 22, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT


It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? “Build a stadium.”

Yes, we understand that it’s more than just erecting four grandstands and laying sod. You have to find a site and develop an integrated plan within a bigger community picture, etc.  But at some point, we just figure that ideas scratched out on napkins evolve smoothly into architectural renderings and then merge into the hard-hatted construction phase.

We watch on a live construction site webcam until the time for virtual tours and picking our seats and then … voila!  “Say, where is the shortest beer line around here?”

Yes, would that it were all so easy-breezy.

Those closest to the facility game in New York know better – and they know a lot better.

A heavy percentage of today’s New York Times story of Major League Soccer’s newest club, the league’s No. 20, is devoted to the quagmire of facility challenges to come. The story is chalk full of the onerous nitty-gritty ahead.

One of the great details, according to the piece from Charles Bagli and Ken Belson, is that Manchester City was willing to foot the bill on its own – hardly a surprise considering the Abu Dhabi owner’s fabulous riches. But …

… Manchester City decided in the last week to team with the Yankees. In doing so, it gained a wealthy local partner well acquainted with building a stadium and navigating New York’s often treacherous political and regulatory shoals. Manchester City’s owners are also hoping that a partnership with the Yankees will shield them from criticism that a stadium project in the park represents a sweetheart deal for Arab royalty, according to team executives.”

And in that paragraph we begin to get a feel for the dense politics involved here. But wait … there’s much more. Because that before we even get to those “regulatory shoals,” the site selection is an absolute muddy swamp of local politics.

Make that a massive “quicksand” pit, seemingly capable of swallowing up whole projects. From the Times story:

To build a home for the team, the city, the league, Manchester City and now the Yankees must win over half a dozen community boards, the city planning commission, the City Council, and potentially state and federal agencies — a process that will take months, if not years. Some of the constituents oppose ceding parkland to a foreign billionaire.”

Some of this is the regular, regional sausage making process – ugly and difficult – not too unlike facility development in any urban area, but military grade strength in the nation’s largest city. They’ve been going through this stuff in New York for more than 50 years, since the vilified Walter O’Malley stole the beloved Dodgers and moved the team west amid dogfights over facilities, land rights, political turf, etc.

But look at that last line in the excerpt! Talk of ceding parkland to a silver spooned, foreign billionaire will put additional monkeys in the wrench.

The story helps explain why big projects in New York, especially sports facilities, will always be wrought with obstructions, especially when it comes to “the use of public resources for wealthy team owners,” as the story says.

New York City FC and MLS officials are talking about use of a temporary facility for a year or so. Anyone beginning to lean toward the “or so,” on that one? And perhaps a frustratingly long “or so” at that?

(MORE: Possible temporary homes for NYCFC)

(MORE: MLS possibly retreating on Queens as a landing spot)

  1. geojock - May 22, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Without a stadium already in the works I think that is the bigger problem with NYCFC, not all the other things people have complained about. A stadium is critical to building a fan base.

    • danielofthedale - May 22, 2013 at 3:06 PM

      I really agree. I mean more than one team has tried to put a stadium in New York City and failed to do. I think the longer this goes without a site for a stadium the more precarious the situation gets. Obviously I am not talking like right, but if we go four to six with one progress made on this front then that is when the ticking clock on a move to Jersey or Long Island starts.

      • joeyt360 - May 22, 2013 at 7:32 PM

        They’ve put so much money on the line, though, that I have to think they’ve got a backup plan for if Corona Park falls through.

  2. bobinkc - May 22, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Egad!!!!! After watching Sporting Kansas City play in a baseball stadium (albeit lower minor league), I totally bleed for any NYCFC fan(?) trying to watch even in Yankees Stadium. Seating is NOT conducive to a football game, let alone a futbol game. At best fans will be far away from the field and/or seated at one end of the field or, worst case, seating will be far, far, far away and they will need binoculars to see the play.

    Sorry, just don’t see any positives to playing in any baseball stadium.

  3. orbmech - May 22, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    Hmmm, I thought that one of the musts for awarding a new MLS franchise was already having or in the final stages of getting a stadium. I guess if you wave enough money at the front office, the rules will change. Hope it doesn’t bite them in the butt later.

    • buckyball77 - May 25, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      Exactly. And there’s a danger to the league that it will look foolish and incompetent just as much as the “foreign billionaire”.

      There’s a little whiff of desperation about this already. The MLS will try a high risk plan to get a successful franchise in NYC.

  4. dws110 - May 22, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    It’s not tougher than I thought, NYRB taught us all exactly how tough it is when they couldn’t get it done so they moved to New Jersey. Anyone who thought otherwise is intentionally ignoring history.

  5. mconroy10 - May 22, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Yup – there’s a reason why the Red Bulls, Jets and Giants all play in Jersey. Would be funny if these clowns ended up stuck at the Meadowlands or paying us rent for RBA. Talk about putting the cart ahead of the horse!

  6. mdac1012 - May 22, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    There are no guarantees when it comes to NY politics. The Jets crashed and burned miserably in their attempts to get a stadium built in Manhatten and that was with the support of Mayor for life King Michael. George Steinbrenner screamed and yelled for years about the need for a new stadium before he was able to build one, and the Yankees are the number one sports franchise in the country.

    MLS sure as heck doesn’t have the stroke MLB and especially the NFL have and their collective track records are spotty. If Man City is willing to foot the whole bill then I think that certainly helps the cause. I think it will get done, but its going to be a circus as everything in NY always is.

    • wfjackson3 - May 23, 2013 at 10:48 PM

      Them footing the whole bill is the key here. I think that it will get done eventually because they are willing to pay.

  7. seanb20124 - May 25, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    Union labor, and no show jobs will kill the project

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