Earlier this evening, the New York Daily News ran an article focusing on Tim Pernetti's time as New York City FC's chief business officer. While Stefan Bondy did a solid job of profiling Pernetti, the real news was buried deep in the article:
New York property attorney Martin Edelman, a member of Manchester City’s board of directors, told the News that the search has now moved to Queens and Brooklyn.
"We had focused on the Bronx but that didn’t work out and we weren’t able to find anything else in the Bronx that made sense," Edelman says. "So we’re looking in Queens and Brooklyn, and each potential has to be analyzed for construction, for access to public transportation, for parking, it’s a very complicated process.
"There’s no rush, but there’s a rush. In other words we’re not going to just settle for something, we’re going to find a place where everybody is comfortable doing it, and it makes economic sense to do it. But we’re not just sitting and waiting for the place to come to us."
You read that right. The Bronx is out, and Queens and Brooklyn are in as the potential sites for New York City's stadium. That raises another question though: where would that stadium be located?
Before New York City joined the league, Major League Soccer lobbied hard for a stadium to be located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. That's in the same area as the Mets' Citi Field. Because of a groundswell of neighborhood resistance, those plans were shelved once the team became official.
After Flushing Meadows, the next location considered was the GAL Elevator site just south of Yankee Stadium. According to Yankees president Randy Levine on Wednesday, negotiations between the team and the elevator company were very far along; but the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor at the end of last year scuppered those plans. That forced the team to start over again.
The most recent speculation about a stadium site centers around the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. It’s not an ideal option, by any means: unlike the South Bronx location, the Aqueduct isn’t particularly easy to get to. The A line is the only subway that comes close to it, and the Q37 bus is the only actual transportation option that goes right to the place. Both that and its general location (in South Ozone Park) led MLS and the New York Cosmos of the NASL (who now play at Hofstra) to consider other, better locations.
But it’s already zoned for entertainment purposes – it’s where the Resorts World Casino is located – and it’s in an area that’s been looking for economic redevelopment.
On the other hand, you'd have to go through multiple levels of government approval in order to get construction underway. Those were the same issues that plagued the Flushing Meadows MLS plan; it's hard to imagine New York City FC wouldn't run into those same issues. It's one thing to have a race track there; it's a whole other matter siting a stadium there.
Brooklyn runs into the same issues, if not more so. Moreover, whatever goodwill the people of Brooklyn had towards building a stadium there was destroyed with the construction of the Barclays Center. It's hard to imagine that they'd support the construction of a 25,000-to-30,000 seat soccer stadium, regardless of where in the borough it was located.
Those issues take on added importance when you consider that New York City is currently very much the tenants at their current home in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees aren't thrilled to be hosting New York City, regardless of their ownership status. I'm given to understand that part of the reason that the complete MLS schedule hasn't been released yet is because New York City and the Yankees are still working out home date conflicts between the two teams, since the baseball and soccer seasons overlap so much.
It's probably safe to say that the Yankees would look upon any extension of New York City's current tenancy there with a very jaundiced eye. Say what you will about how it's "not so bad" to watch a soccer game there, the fact remains that the words "not so bad" are doing a lot of work there. It's a baseball stadium, designed for baseball. That makes finding a permanent site for a stadium one of the highest priorities for the team, if not the highest priority. The sooner that happens, the sooner the team can plan on leaving Yankee Stadium.
But there is one project that is shovel-ready, and could be undertaken swiftly once it is approved, because it only depends, putatively, on state approval:
The proposed Cosmos stadium in Elmont.
That stadium proposal was submitted just under two years ago, on January 11, 2013. Since then, it's been in limbo, with the Cosmos waiting...and waiting...and waiting some more. There has been no progress on its approval, and rumors have swirled that MLS has lobbied the Empire State Development Corporation -- who own the land the stadium would be located on -- against approval of the project.
What if, though, there was a ground-sharing agreement? What if, in exchange for New York City FC owning the stadium and its naming rights, they agreed to share it with the New York Cosmos?
Before you start howling, hear me out. There's two main reasons why that makes sense.
It's clear that in the current economic environment, with stagnant wages, stubbornly high unemployment, and a pallid recovery that could easily dive back into recession, the public sentiment is simply not there for one stadium construction project, let alone two. The literature on the subject is beyond clear: stadium construction projects don't bring many, if any, economic benefits to their areas. Any economic benefits are marginal at best.
With the city's density being what it is -- and growing -- any stadium built will likely be the last stadium built for a long while.
That brings me to the other reason: the Cosmos need a stadium. The equation for them is simple: stadium = life. No stadium, no team. Their existence is contingent on it. They can talk all they want about "ten-year plans" and display all the bravado in the world, but without a stadium of their own, any plans and all bravado is as empty as a vacuum.
As someone who's been to a fair number of games at Shuart Stadium, I can tell you that playing there is killing them. Their claims of being a "world-class" organization that is "globally relevant" are belied by the fact that they are a tenant at a fairly decrepit college stadium. They can't control their game-day presentation. Heck, they can't even sell beer at Hofstra. On top of that, it's difficult for anyone in the city to get there using public transportation.
All those things are impacting them; their attendance, while respectable by American second-division standards, also hurts them in their pursuit of a stadium. But here's the thing: even if the ESDC were to approve their stadium tomorrow, they would still be a second-division team.
Last season, they drew an average of around 4,700 per game, down from around 6,900 in 2013 (for only the fall season); their stadium proposal is for a 25,000-seat stadium. There's simply no precedent for a second-division team getting a stadium and radically increasing their attendance. It would be one thing if the Cosmos had increased their attendance, but it's actually gone down. Worse: the team was actively doing a "buy one, get one free" deal earlier this month for season tickets. Yes, that's right: season tickets. None of that points to a population that's clamoring to attend Cosmos games.
Combine that with the general reluctance to approve stadiums, and you can see why it's taken so long for that proposal to be considered.
If ownership of the stadium switches over to New York City FC and MLS, though, the prospects for that proposal may change. It's no secret that MLS attendance has increased year over year. This year was the best year yet: an average of 19,151 people attended MLS games between the 19 teams -- and that was with Chivas USA holding down the average. Next year's will in all likelihood blow the doors off this year's: not only will New York City join the league, but Orlando City will be playing in the Citrus Bowl. Given Orlando's rampant enthusiasm for their MLS team, I don't see them slacking in attendance there.
Put it another way: which is more likely to pack a 25,000-seat stadium -- a second-division team struggling to draw people to its games, playing in a still-fledgling league, or a first-division team that's sold 11,000 season tickets before playing a game, and playing in a stable league that will draw 20,000 people per game next season?
If you're the ESDC, it's not hard to see which is more palatable. It's not hard to see which is more justifiable to taxpayers -- to the degree any stadium project is justifiable.
A stadium shared between New York City and the Cosmos makes sense.. The Giants and Jets share Met Life. AC Milan and Inter share the San Siro. Sampdoria and Genoa share the Luigi Ferraris. Want a better analogue? Bayern München share the Allianz Arena with 1860 München.
Why should New York City and the New York Cosmos be any different?