For those unaware, Mount Vernon is one of New York City’s closest neighbors, as the city of nearly 70,000 borders the Bronx immediately to the north.
Despite its proximity to the Five Boroughs, Mount Vernon has faced a slew of challenges in the recent years. A scathing Journal News editorial titled “Mount Vernon sinks as leadership falters” slammed the city and its current government:
As the editorial put it, “in the City of Mount Vernon, nothing is simple, and foolishness is always lurking.”
In its assessment, the editorial cites dysfunction surrounding a March snowstorm, the city’s ten 2016 murders, and its 10% homelessness rate for schoolchildren as clear demonstrations of this incompetence.
Outside of these numbers, the city has an abysmal track record in reference to spending taxpayer money. The city spent more than $1 million on a YMCA building the city bought in 2013 that remains shuttered. Another $1 million has been spent on an unfinished emergency operations center that is the subject of a lawsuit with a contractor who is now a city councilman.
Memorial Field is the physical embodiment of this failure. The now-closed site, once of great local renown, is nothing more today than a “pile of rocks.” In the seven years since its closure, Mount Vernon has spent nearly $6 million on the stadium.
Mayor Richard Thomas sees Memorial Field as worthy of a facelift — one which he will pursue with the hope of wooing a professional sports franchise. Thomas’ plan would spend $120 million on a multi-phased construction which would include an underground parking garage, restaurants and a movie theater.
The main facet of Thomas’ ambitious plan is converting Memorial Field itself into a 15,000-seat stadium topped off with a retractable roof.
“The rebirth of Memorial Field is on two tracks,” Thomas said. “One is to reclaim it by cleaning it up and the second track is to revitalize it by daring to do a big project.”
While Thomas seems well-intentioned in his pursuits, his plan is fundamentally misguided, as he appears to pin his hopes on a buy-in potential for the stadium — particularly from NYCFC.
According to The Journal News, Thomas “said when considering Barclays Center in Brooklyn seats 18,000, he feels a 15,000 seat stadium would be appropriate for a professional sports club.”
To be blunt, Thomas clearly has not does his research. While NYCFC would certainly prefer its own stadium, there is literally no chance that management would be open to downsizing or moving to Memorial Field.
NYCFC’s 2016 average attendance was 27,196. In 2016, our least-attended match saw 22,736 fans. Yankee Stadium’s soccer capacity can be expanded to 49,469 if necessary. In a 2015 match against the New York Red Bulls, the upper deck was opened and 48,047 fans streamed into Yankee Stadium. 18,000 is therefore not only insufficient for the most mediocre match, but for derbies and any potential CONCACAF Champions League matches as well.
While Mount Vernon may be a solid location for a soccer-specific stadium, 18,000 is insufficient for MLS in general, and severely so for NYCFC’s current and seemingly-ever growing needs.
Furthermore, as pointed out by Redditor djkw418, the location has one highway exit. The space surrounding the stadium is also a residential neighborhood, meaning that traffic in and out would be a disaster.
Finally, while Mount Vernon is on the border with the Bronx, it’s nearly an hour from much of Manhattan. Getting to Memorial Field from Manhattan would require taking the 4/5/6 trains to 125th street, transferring to the 6350 Stamford bus, and then walking 0.8 miles — about 15 minutes. This is pretty substantial trek, especially when compared to the current ease of taking the 4 and D trains straight to Yankee Stadium.
Considering the limited 15,000-seating capacity, Mount Vernon’s abysmal building track record, and issues surrounding transportation, the idea of NYCFC opting-in to such a situation is laughable. There are so many things wrong with this plan, it’s hard to cover them all. Even the slightest of them is an absolute non-starter for NYCFC.
Thanks Mr. Mayor, but it’s a no from us. Now leave us out of your politics, please.