New York City FC: Self-imposed stadium dilemma continues

New York City FC (Photo by Michael Stewart/Getty Images)
New York City FC (Photo by Michael Stewart/Getty Images) /

COVID-19 has impacted New York City FC’s search for a permanent home. The stadium dilemma persists, but it is one of their own making.

When COVID-19 struck New York City, life in the Big Apple went on hold. Businesses shut down and the streets remained eerily empty; lives were lost and the city was undoubtedly changed.  While life is slowly resuming in the coronavirus era, the impact is being felt in all aspects of life.

Unfortunately for New York City FC and the fans, the virus had two negative impacts regarding the ongoing stadium dilemma. First, discussions and the search for the club’s own stadium were put on hold. Second, and now more urgently, NYCFC must find a place to play once, and if, the remainder of the regular season resumes.

To begin, it was expected that the stadium search and discussions to be put on hold. It would be ill-advised for such discussions to continue when thousands were sick and many more needed assistance. Hence, according to CEO Brad Sims, who spoke to Jonathan Sigal of, the ‘club’s recent attention shifted toward community-focused initiatives’. Sims felt the stadium was not a top priority and it was imperative to focus on the community instead.

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Putting people first before business highlights the values of the club, so there is no complaint about temporarily suspending the stadium discussions. However, no one knows how COVID-19 will impact the timing of the process, as Sims explained:

"“I think it’s too early to figure out if that’s been impacted, and we continue to do work on our end to control the things that we can control.  But ultimately it’s going to be very driven, the process, on a going forward basis, by community leaders and local elected officials, community boards, et cetera. We’re looking forward to that process, hopefully, starting in the very near future.”"

Since the stadium development involves the community, there is the pending question of the economic impact. Overall, the pandemic hurt the economy throughout the United States, so some individuals may be concerned about investing in a new stadium. Economic fears can hinder the process even further and fans might find themselves waiting a few more seasons for their stadium dream to come true. However, Sims believes the stadium could have a positive impact on the city’s economy. Speaking to Ryan Gerbosi at Newsday, he said:

"“We feel like we’re positioned well for our project to be part of the New York comeback story. Obviously, more to come, we have to continue to engage with the community. There’s a well-known, well-documented community approval process which we will 100% be going through so that dialogue with the community leaders and local elected officials will start up in more earnest here going forward.”"

Plus, no one knows exactly when there will be a vaccine and how long it will take to resume to normalcy. It is possible that the virus may be around for a longer period of time, which could impact the search further. Moreover, even if NYCFC are fortunate to announce a stadium this year, construction could be pushed off due to the virus. In the long run, it seems New York City FC will continue to face obstacles with finding and building their permanent home.

The stadium search is not the only aspect that is impacted by COVID-19. Leagues all over the United States had to pause or postpone their seasons due to the virus, and Major League Baseball was no different. Back in April, there were questions about where NYCFC would play once Major League Soccer resumed, and Sims recognized the issue when speaking with Sigal. The current MLB season would make it difficult and unlikely for NYCFC to play at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field. Unfortunately, the CEO mentioned Red Bull Arena to both Sigal and Gerbosi as a possible location for home games. Whether some fans will eventually be able to attend games this year remains up in the air, but no matter what, playing at your rival’s home is far from ideal.

Nevertheless, the club wants to play in market. Therefore, Sims said they are looking at numerous venues for hosting games and will hopefully confirm where in the next few weeks. One venue the club should consider is Belson Stadium. The team played an Open Cup match at the stadium in 2019, the academy teams have practiced there, and it is a smaller venue. However, the Pigeons would need permission from St. John’s University.

Another option, while games cannot have fans, is to play at their training complex. While it is out of the city and would not be ideal, it is home to NYCFC and is owned by the club. Additionally, it would be easier to control the cleaning and safety measures to protect against COVID-19. It would also allow a large home advantage as compared to playing at another stadium.

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In the end, the delay of finding and announcing a permanent home, and the question where New York City FC will play in 2020, enhances the importance of having a stadium before joining MLS.  NYCFC are mere visitors to Yankee Stadium and the baseball team will always come first. And so, the stadium dilemma continues, a dilemma that, while compounded by the pandemic has been brewing for a long time before. The pressure to find a permanent home is stronger than ever and New York City FC are yet to deliver.