While there’s no set deadline, Major League Soccer (MLS) Commissioner Don Garber said he hopes the top US soccer league will ink a deal with the city sometime this year for a 25,000 seat arena in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Garber, speaking at a Q&A with reporters after his opening season address, said he wasn’t putting a time period on when the league would exploring markets outside of New York, but if talks carried on for several years, the league would start looking elsewhere.
“If we’re not able to be successful,” he said, “we’ll throw our hands up and say time for shifting emphasis. I will say it will be far sooner than three years before we throw our hands up. We’ve been working on this for a couple of years; we’re hoping to be able to get something finalized this year. If we’re not able to do that, we’ll probably take a step back and figure out whether or not there’s another market we want to move in.”
During his remarks, however, Garber said MLS had strong talks with officials at the city and state level and is continuing to hammer out the details of the project, which he once projected to be up and running for the 2016 MLS season.
“Expansion, particularly here in New York City, remains a big priority for us,” he said. “We continue to work hard to have our twentieth team play here in New York, in a new stadium, hopefully in Flushing Meadows Corona park…we do remain in very productive discussions with the City of New York, with the State of New York, lots of local officials who are very, very engaged with, regarding that project. We still have a lot of work to do but we are making progress.”
The commissioner said in October that he hoped for an agreement with the city within a month, but nothing came of it. Since then, the league has held several meetings with the communities surrounding the park, including a Town Hall style meeting in December that was criticized for mostly having league supporters.
Opposition to the proposed project, which could take up to 13 acres of parkland away, has been harsh and growing in numbers by people who want to protect the park from privatization.