The announcement of a new team may be a major score for soccer officials, but it pushes back the goalposts for a new Queens stadium.
Manchester City Football Club and the Yankees are partnering up to establish the New York City Football Club (FC), officials announced today. It is Major League Soccer’s (MLS) 20th expansion team.
MLS and the partnership aim to have the squad up and running by the 2015 soccer season, The team will start by playing at a temporary venue. “This is a transformative moment for Major League Soccer and soccer in America as we welcome our 20th club called New York City Football Club,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber. “It provides us with a rivalry with the New York Red Bulls [...] rivalries drive the success in soccer around the world.”
In the partnership, England’s Manchester City FC will handle soccer operations while the Yankees will focus on establishing the team in New York.
The league spent nearly a year publicly lobbying for a 25,000-seat stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Parkland advocates have actively opposed the effort.
While the league’s talks with the city have seen ups and downs, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has remained confident New York and MLS will ink a deal before his final term ends in December.
Garber said it was too soon to discuss where New York City FC will play its first season. Yankees President Randy Levine said Yankee Stadium and Citi Field were possibilities. Both venues have hosted exposition soccer matches since each opened in 2009.
“We’re competitors with the Mets, but we’re also partners with them in Major League Baseball,” Levine said. “Citi Field could be as much of a temporary site as Yankee Stadium.”
Finding a long-term home is now up to the owners, Garber said, with MLS essentially taking a back seat in the process.
Ferran Soriano, CEO of Manchester City Football Club, said Flushing Meadows-Corona Park will still be explored as an option along with other spots in the city. He added that wherever developers go, they will actively seek community input.
“We’re well aware of the conversations with the stadium in Flushing Meadows,” Soriano said.
“The stadium has to be a success from the soccer perspective commercially” and from the community perspective, too, he added.
During the lobbying process, Garber and other MLS officials said Flushing Meadows was the ideal location for a soccer pitch. But some Queens residents have argued the league should leave the park alone and look elsewhere.
After Tuesday’s announcement, the Fairness Coalition of Queens issued a statement saying it was open to the team, but suggested using a spot that would not take away parkland.
“The proposal for a stadium inside the heart of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is deeply flawed and would irrevocably damage a vital community resource.”
Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, said the new owners’ openness to finding a new site was a sign that a stadium in Flushing Meadows would not have worked.
“The plan to install that stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was dead on arrival,” he said.
“We’re very happy that they are now beginning to acknowledge that.”
He faulted both MLS and the mayor for their discussions to date.
“I think Major League Soccer was getting some mixed signals from the [Bloomberg] administration,” he said. “But the problem is, Major League Soccer should be ashamed of themselves, to begin with, that they should get away with this.”
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