New York City FC: More updates on the never-ending stadium saga

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Members of New York City FC and FC Cincinnati stand for a moment of silence for those that have been lost to the Corona Virus before the start of the home opener match at Yankee Stadium on April 24, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Members of New York City FC and FC Cincinnati stand for a moment of silence for those that have been lost to the Corona Virus before the start of the home opener match at Yankee Stadium on April 24, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images) /

Here is a summary of the latest updates and thoughts on the New York City FC stadium saga

New York City FC has faced much scrutiny from fans since the inaugural season in 2015, mostly due to the front office of the club.  But there is one issue where fans have been extremely frustrated and vocal about over the last few years: the lack of a stadium.  This is especially true from the last couple of seasons, for the Pigeons have been forced out of their current “home”, Yankee Stadium, way too often.  Plus, they have been forced to move to Red Bull Arena in 2020 due to COVID-19 issues, and again for some games in 2021 due to scheduling conflicts.  Fans are overtly against playing at their rival’s stadium, and thus many boycott attending games there.

Every year, NYCFC personnel claim they are close to an announcement.  There have been updates reported in the news, but most updates from the club has been vague.  The lack of transparency on the stadium has angered supporters over the years, and rightly so.  The clarity on the current status was not often provided, and many fans had to get their information elsewhere.

However, back in April, NYCFC started to become a little more transparent.  While the recent statement form NYCFC CEO Brad Sims still treaded on the lines of broad, he gave the following update:

"“The timing will be dictated by the public approval process. Once we have fully assembled the necessary parcels of land that process can begin.COVID did slow down the work to secure land, but that process has picked up significantly. More steps to go, but it is moving again in the right direction.Out of all the MLS Clubs, we operate in the most complex real estate environment in the country; things like land assembly and public approval process are far more complicated in NYC than any other MLS Club has ever had to deal with.Despite all of the obvious challenges we’ve faced and continue to face, City Football Group and NYCFC is fully committed to building and investing in NYC. NYCFC will ultimately spend significantly more for our Stadium than any other MLS ownership group has for theirs.From the time we enter the public approval process, we are plus or minus four years out from that point to Stadium opening, if everything goes as we hope.”"

In other words, Sims cannot guarantee a stadium will be approved, with which the politics of New York City, is understandable.  But he did not clearly state the status of where New York City FC is process wise, and he is not promising fans they will get that much wanted home.  Again, it is understandable to a point, for there are some things out of his hands in the approval process.

More importantly, the news fans often hear about are the hurdles hindering any stadium progress.  In the last update, MLS Multiplex discussed how Bronx Parking Development Company LLC was the main current obstacle in the way of confirming a stadium.  The New York Yankees offered to pay some of the company’s debts, but at the time, any discussion was stalled.

Yet, recently there has finally been some progress regarding discussions between the local city government, Bronx Parking, the New York Yankees, and Maddd Equities LLC, the real estate company that is working with NYCFC and the Yankees to produce a stadium.

Back in May, Chris Campbell of The Outfield, who has done fantastic reporting on the stadium over the years, reported how Maddd Equities with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, or NYCEDC “presented to Bronx Community Board 4 about their proposal to split the lease for the parking garages in the South Bronx that Bronx Parking Development Corporation [Company] currently holds”.  They “will be paying the bondholders approx. $50m in order to split this lease”, and such a move is vital to move toward a stadium.

Campbell then reported the following in June from The Outfield:

"“According to documents obtained by The Outfield, the Yankees, along with development partner Maddd Equities, are contemplating severing the lease between New York City and BPDC, splitting the garages and lots as part of the YSPS into two leases: one leaving BPDC to supply the Yankees with sufficient parking, and the other providing several lots and garages to Maddd Equities to be operated as parking facilities until development on the stadium site begins.“Performing this split would require a vote from Bronx Community Board 4 (CB4), followed by a vote from the Bronx Borough Board, and then authorization from the mayor.”"

Originally, the vote was supposed to occur on June 22.  Unfortunately, the vote has been delayed until September because Maddd Equities and the Yankees made last minute changes.  The changes included how the “Yankees wanted the lease to clarify the difference between “attended” and “unattended” parking, while Maddd Equities sought changes to the $46.25m package they proposed to pay bondholders”.  Campbell reported such a move has caused distrust amongst the Bronx Community Board 4, especially since the Yankees “strong-armed community board members into holding the vote in June”.

On the other hand, there is also a report from FOX Business that states any deal for a stadium for New York City FC is likely squashed.  Per the report, the city and bondholders, and then the Yankees, were both accused of breaking down the deal where the bondholders would have their bonds restructured and get paid, and the Yankees would have access to the garage to then build a stadium.  The amount of parking spaces allotted for the baseball team would be reduced significantly, but the Yankees claim the NYCEDC hesitated about the parking, which is why the deal broke down.  Alas, the NYCEDC are “still hopeful a deal can be worked out that satisfies both parties and that the community board can vote on the project sometime in the Fall”.

In the long run, it does not matter who is responsible for the postponement; this stumble could have negative consequences.  While a stadium in the Bronx makes sense, and will provide a much needed economic boost to the community, those on the board are human.  They can easily become spiteful toward the Yankees, and vote down the move to the split the lease.  A much needed apology is likely required, especially if the Yankees and Maddd Equities are responsible for the postponement.  They also have to persuade the board that such a move will reap nothing other than benefits for the community.  And of course, a deal must be reached this summer.

One thing that is for sure, and do not let the Twitter trolls and not-so-great headlines fool you, is that the stadium plan is not entirely dead.  There is now a whole summer for both sides to come back to the table.  Furthermore, while the Yankees have been vital with moving toward a deal, it might be time for the higher-ups of City Football Group themselves to get more involved.  If the stadium is not confirmed, and the Bronx Community Board votes down any development, then New York City FC, and the future of the club, could be in jeopardy.

Therefore, that is probably why Sims sent out an email to City members regarding the latest developments with the stadium.  In the email, he stated he was disappointed in the delay of the vote, and offered the idea to fans about moving the plans for a stadium elsewhere in the city.  He even mentioned the difficulty with building in New York City, and hinted about the political hurdles they have and will continue to face.

More political obstacles possibly loom

Clearly, the politics of New York City, the difficulty to build in the city itself, and the likes of Bronx Parking have all been obstacles for the last eight years.  Surely Major League Soccer never imagined the process would take this long, and maybe were not informed about the difficulty of dealing with the city.  City Football Group and the Yankees might have dragged their feet a little bit, despite claims by New York City FC that they have been working diligently to acquire a stadium site and build since the inauguration of the club.  Whether it is the political nature of New York City, or the club and ownership, the fact remains clear: NYCFC should have had a stadium years ago, or at at least announced one within the past few years.

At this rate, all the blame cannot be placed entirely on MLS and NYCFC.  Yes, both should have been more prepared to engage with the obstacles, but sometimes the city can be at fault as well.  While progress has been more promising over the last couple of years, there is now a new concern: the 2021 election.

If the Bronx Community Board 4 and the Bronx Borough Board approves the stadium, then in order for it to be built, it must go through the mayor.  Hence, there is no guarantee the new mayor will approve a stadium.  However, many of the candidates offered support of such a build, as long as the city and taxpayers do not have to pay.  Fortunately, as it is already known, the New York City FC stadium will be privately funded.

Although, it is not clear on who will be the final candidates for mayor, at least regarding the Democrat side.  There were issues with the primary, for it was the first time with rank-choice voting, and it is still not clear on who the nominee will be.  Curtis Sliwa has been confirmed as the Republican nominee though, and he supports a stadium as long as the team pays.

Then again, realistically, it is unlikely Sliwa will be the next mayor of New York City.  Excluding Staten Island, the five boroughs are predominantly Democratic strongholds.  As of February 2021, the city had over 3.7 million registered Democrats, as compared to the 566,000 Republicans.  It would take a huge controversy on the Democrat side for Sliwa to have a chance at winning, so at this rate, the winner of the Democratic Primary will be the next mayor.

Right now, there are three candidates remaining since absentee votes are still being counted.  The remaining three are Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, and Maya Wiley.  Adams is currently in the lead, with Garcia in second, and Wiley in third.  It is unknown whether Adams supports a stadium, but Garcia, like Sliwa, supports a stadium as long as the public does not fund it.  Meanwhile, Wiley does not support a stadium at all, which would be a concern if she was able to come from behind after the absentee ballots are counted.  Still, more than likely the mayor will be Adams or Garcia.

Now, keep in mind there are more important matters at hand for voters, and the stadium for New York City FC is not important in the grand scheme of issues voters are voting for.  Nonetheless, the mayor has to approve the stadium, so who becomes the next mayor is important for the club.  If the Bronx Community Board and Borough Board vote, and approve the stadium, but the mayor refuses to approve, then it will be a devastating blow to the Pigeons.

At this moment in time, NYCFC is at a critical point in the club’s history.  Not only do the Yankees, the NYCEDC and the bondholders of Bronx Parking have to come to a new deal, but the plans for a stadium must be approved by the boards and the mayor.  The future is unknown, but at least one thing is for certain: New York City FC will likely know their fate sooner, rather than later.