John Ferrera, head of the Junction Boulevard Merchants Association, noted that a professional soccer arena in the heart of Queens would spur local culture and be an economic boon to the area.
“You’ll see for yourself, whenever there’s a major soccer match between countries, how excited the neighborhoods get in Queens,” said Ferrera, who’s been in business on Junction for more than 30 years. “It is a perfect time and place.”
More than 1,000 small businesses have signed letters of support, and put up signage, to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) Stadium to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The announcement, held at El Sabor Latino in Elmhurst on Friday, January 18, featured elected officials, business leaders and shop owners in the neighborhood.
Should a potential 25,000-seat arena go into the park, MLS officials expect businesses in nearby Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst to see significant patronage from fans before and after games. Though there is no concrete amount of economic activity the stadium could bring to northern central Queens, it should be significant, said Brett Lashbrook, the league’s point man for the project.
Lashbrook cited MLS’ “March to the Match,” in which fans will often meet up at a local establishment in walking distance from an arena. The national and international tradition, he said, has been widely successful for businesses around stadiums.
“We all know what it can do potentially,” said State Senator Jose Peralta. “And that’s why Major League Soccer has the support of over 1,000 small businesses in the, because they understand that the backbone of this community, the small businesses, will also receive an improvement in their bottom line while working towards debt consolidation.”
Peralta said the city and residents should not turn down a potential good deal when they see it, but promised to “hold [league officials’] feet to the fire” on fulfilling the promises attached to the project. Some of these include pouring money into Flushing Meadows to revive the park.
Components of the project are still left wide open, including who will own the team, where displaced parkland will go and what ramifications are yet to come.
Any lost parkland would have to be replaced in a relatively close area. Lashbrook said the league had not picked out a site for the potential new greenspace, but acknowledged a portion of the Queensway — a proposed walkway from Rego Park to Ozone Park — has been suggested as a possibility.
But while fans are expected to be drawn to businesses along Roosevelt Avenue, known for hosting passionate crowds during international games, there are currently no plans in the works to repair the pothole-ridden thoroughfare, which has been infected with questionable activity, through city financing.
“[T]here won’t be any city financing,” Lashbrook said. “[We are] committed to replacing the parkland…committed to improving and upgrading all the soccer fields in the park, as well as making a significant investment — that’s millions and millions of dollars — in upgrading the park as a whole as well as the adjacent neighborhoods.”
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