It is almost 2020 and New York City FC are still without a stadium. But will the club make an announcement? Here is why they should, and can.
The offseason has been somewhat quiet for New York City FC. Yes, there was the departure of head coach Domenec Torrent, the change in Sporting Director, and the signing of Tayvon Gray. However, in comparison to other MLS teams, little has been done on and off the pitch. No other signings have been announced, the team is still without a head coach, and more importantly, there has been no announcement regarding a permanent home for the Pigeons.
Recently, I wrote one of the top priorities for NYCFC is to make an announcement regarding a stadium during the offseason. The fans deserve to know whether the club is still looking, or whether land to build a stadium has finally been acquired. I argued that the club has to be transparent with the process, no matter the current status.
However, another year is almost complete and there is no specific public statement. In March, the president of the New York Yankees, Randy Levine, spoke on Bloomberg TV about the hope of announcing the stadium in 2019. That same month, now former sporting director Claudio Reyna told SBI the club was close to having a stadium. Finally, the fans’ dreams of having a place to call home were being realised. And yet, since then, silence.
With this in mind, while New York City FC needs to be transparent and release a statement on the status of their new stadium plans, I now feel the club must go one step further and officially declare that a stadium will be built. There are two reasons: the issues with Yankee Stadium and the information on a possible and feasible spot to build.
Firstly, while the Pigeons are fortunate to have a current home, they cannot play at Yankee Stadium forever. The constant changing from a baseball field to a soccer pitch has led to numerous issues, poor playing surfaces for soccer games chief among them. Throughout the years, there were numerous times when fans witnessed grass patches being kicked up. Frankly, it is a miracle no devastating injury has occurred during a game.
Also, there is always the risk of displacement, as seen during the single playoff game back in October. While the regular season will predominantly be set in stone, one can never know when the Yankees will face postponement. If scheduling is an issue, the Yankees can force NYCFC out of the stadium in order to make up their own game. And of course, the Yankees would play at the stadium for their playoffs over NYCFC. Therefore, the displacement issue can cause fans to be unreceptive towards playing at the baseball stadium. In reality, New York City FC are just a tenant, nothing more, and that is damning for a professional sports team.
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Secondly, while space can be infrequent in New York City, there is a spot that would work for the club, and has been part of the stadium rumor mill for years. In fact, the location is right in the Bronx. According to News 12 Bronx, it ‘would place the stadium at the corner of River Avenue and 153rd Street’. Currently, there is a parking garage and factory that would be uprooted for the stadium.
More positively, Denis Slattery of the NY Daily News reported a survey was conducted among South Bronx residents regarding the stadium, and the results were encouraging. Of those surveyed, ‘76%, say they would welcome the idea of a domed stadium down the street from the Yankees’ home’. Some surveyed had conditions such as ‘the stadium owners should be required to pay property taxes’. And according to News 12 Bronx, residents also request affordable housing.
But this is not a new development. In 2018, Charles V. Bagli of the New York Times reported on this spot. He mentioned this was the same location discussed regarding a stadium in 2013, but plans fell through. Though this time around, the Pigeons are working with Maddd Equities, a development firm. And according to Bagli, Maddd would do the following:
"“The developers say they have a binding agreement to buy the GAL Manufacturing factory on East 153rd Street, near the Major Deegan Expressway. The developers, in turn, would lease the land to New York City F.C. to build the stadium, with the rent subsidizing development of the housing.The developer is also looking to relocate GAL nearby so the borough does not lose several hundred blue-collar jobs.”"
Furthermore, Bagli mentioned the ownership of NYCFC is not looking for ‘free land, tax breaks and public funding’. This information would meet the conditions as mentioned above, and even shows the dedication of the club towards the Bronx. Not only do a majority of those surveyed this year support the stadium, but the stadium could have a positive social and economic impact on the community.
The two reasons above should inspire New York City FC to make an announcement. So, why haven’t they? Despite public support, are their hurdles regarding discussions with the city of New York? Are there issues with Maddd purchasing the entire area that would be needed for the stadium project? Is the club afraid an announcement would kill any pending plans? Nevertheless, it is time to be transparent.
For the sake of the fans, New York City FC needs to be truthful. The club cannot be vague. It must update the fans on the current status. This is a professional sports team without a home. It is time to find one.