Friday, March 9, 2012

The Guessing Game: MLS NY2 Stadium

Courtesy of New York Daily News
Thursday Night, MLS Commissioner Don Garber held his annual "State of the League" teleconference with media from across the country. In the past the event has been used to discuss the league's goals for the new season, which kicks off this Saturday, such as attendance, network broadcasts, growing rivalries and things of that nature. Over the last seven seasons it has also been a chance for Garber to throw media attention towards the latest expansion team; last year it was Vancouver and Portland and this season it is Montreal. However, unlike the previous seasons where the next expansion team was already known for the following season, the 20th team to join the league is a bit of a mystery. The recent addition of Orlando to the race for the next expansion slot took some of the attention away from MLS' goal of adding a second team in New York. Well the "Soccer Don" came prepared to the teleconference and unloaded a massive bombshell on the media; it appears that MLS is going to aquire their own stadium for NY2.

Historically, the league has awarded franchises to interested parties based on several factors including the group's ability to deliver a soccer specific stadium for the team. It was assumed by pretty much everyone in the country that the same would hold true for NY2. Interested parties like the Cosmos, Wilpons, or others have staked their claim to being the next suitor to MLS and have been working on stadium deals that have basically gone nowhere. Now MLS has decided that instead of being held hostage to the owner's stadium schedule that the league would take the lead in acquiring a site and design the new stadium. The thought, as Garber put it, is that MLS will have no problem getting groups willing to pay the estimated one hundred million dollar franchise fee if the stadium component is already settled. Quite simply Garber has realized that the league is in a position to drive expansion and not cater to interested groups as they had done in the past. From his comments to the press last night:

“It’s premature to talk about any specific site, but the league is taking the lead on developing a stadium. It’s the first time we’ve ever done that as part of the expansion process. There have been nine teams over last 10 years to build stadiums, but this is the first one where the league is driving most the important aspects. Architecture, consultants and environmental all work for the league. We will put together a project and then we hope to be able to deliver to a potential owner. We’ve been working with the mayor’s office and it has been a great resource for us, helping to steer us to sites that can be developed and where there is enough community support and to achieve success."

Garber went on to mention that MLS has narrowed their search down to eight to ten sites in the "urban core" of New York City. So we thought it would be fun to take a look at potential sites and see if we could come up with an "educated guess" for our top five choices. We stress, these are hypothetical in nature but we consulted property databases (ACRIS), tax databases (DTM), and other resources to come up with these locations. The requirements for the locations are as follows:
  • Site must be large enough for a soccer stadium and required surrounding support facilities and offsets with neighboring structures
  • Must be near public transportation specifically subway stations
  • Must be in the "urban core" of New York City
  • Must be a "statement" location, meaning not like Harrison, buried in a former industrial yard with little to no view of the city
  • Must be available for development into a stadium, meaning no existing high-rises, public-use lands, waste fields, etc.
Based on the teleconference and the criteria above we can rule out several locations:
  • Long Island - Outside the urban core
  • Staten Island - Outside the urban core
  • Meadowlands/Hoboken - Red Bulls territory
  • Belmont Park - Ruled out by Garber's admission
  • Flushing Meadows/Citi Field - Outside the urban core
  • Hudson River Locations - Too close to Red Bull arena/territory
That's about where the facts end and the guessing begins. After much deliberation we determined that the location is likely going to be outside of Manhattan as well. Although it would be great to have an outdoor stadium right in the heart of NYC, there are limited locations, neighborhood committees, and other roadblocks that make Manhattan a difficult choice. The biggest reason though is that the west side of Manhattan is very much a part of the Red Bulls territory especially with the PATH train heading through Hoboken and over to Harrison. So if not Manhattan then where. Here are our top five sites located in the two areas we think are most likely to get the new stadium.

Long Island City (LIC)
20 years ago this part of southwest Queens was mostly railyards and industrial spaces with little to no residential units. In the last decade the area has exploded with development including several high-rise residences, commercial spaces, and waterfront parks. The land is by no means cheap, but based on the benefits of the location and backdrop of midtown Manhattan across the East River, it might be the ideal choice for MLS. The transportation benefits are clear with the Long Island Railroad station and G, 7, E, & M subway lines surrounding the area. There are three potential sites large enough to support the stadium, the first (LIC-1) being at the southern tip of LIC on the south end of 2nd street. The large empty lot is owned by the City of New York and would likely require some remediation before development. The other two lots are currently private but could potentially be available for the stadium. The second option (LIC-2) is just north of Gantry Plaza State Park in the East Coast LLC/Center Boulevard redevelopment area. The site calls for six mixed use towers upon completion but the 4545 Center Blvd site on the north end of the property sits empty and could potentially be used in a land swap with the neighboring soccer field (ironicly) that is owned by the city. The last location (LIC-3) is adjacent to the New York School Board building on Vernon Boulevard. The site has been remediated over the last decade but is currently in foreclosure and could potentially house the stadium although it is the least likely of the three due to site concerns.

Brooklyn Heights (BH)
It may be a bit of a stretch, but considering the location just across from the financial district of Manhattan, criss-crossed with subway lines, and within a few blocks of downtown Brooklyn the site is ideal. The area along the East River is part of Brooklyn Bridge Park which is owned by the city and managed by a board appointed by the mayor; both big advantages for MLS. The catch is that the park is meant to be almost entirely public lands, self-funded and maintained for the people. The redevelopment has already done wonders for the spaces from Pier 1 to Pier 6, but recent discussions with the city have shown Piers 2 and 3 (BH-1) are the last pieces of the development and still lack a valid funding mechanism for redevelopment. Of the 85 acres that make-up the park, only about 10% is planned to be "revenue generating" space for mixed-use. The idea of a massive soccer stadium in the middle of a beautiful public space might seem odd at first, but the nature of the piers allow for each space to operate independently and a stadium would offer the potential for concerts and other public driven events. The alternative location (BH-2) in this area would be a large parking lot adjacent to the Manhattan Bridge approach and bordered by Front, Bridge, York, and Jay streets. The location doesn't have the views of Manhattan but it's right in a neighborhood area that could create that "Portland and Seattle" environment around the stadium that Garber is looking for with NY2.

So Long Island City and Brooklyn Heights both seem to best fit the criteria set forth by MLS for the NY2 stadium and have parcels available for immediate development. I'm not a betting man, but my money is on Long Island City for some reason. I think the fact that the area is seeing a revival and local support would be high to help put this part of Queens on the map nationally with the league's premier stadium. What are your thoughts? Post a comment and let us know.


  1. Interesting article, while the Brooklyn sites would have great name recognition this seems to me as a longer shot. Neighborhood opposition could be high since streets in these areas are not wide and the overflow of spectators might dissuade local residents. I originally felt the Willets Point area would be a possible site, but these still is years away from redevelopment. Until now I was unaware of LIC as a possible stadium location, but looking at the map it could make sense, transit lines are in the area and you may not get local resident opposition that I would see from those Brooklyn sites.

  2. I'm a big fan of the stadium being built in LIC, but 4545 Center Blvd may not be an option considering the 41-story building already many months into construction.

  3. I kinda find it funny that as much as the commissioner wants NY 2 for a New York rivalry he's actually creating an entire new rivalry against two teams that have never played against each other on the pitch, but are competing for MLS 20; Orlando City vs. NY 2. Think about it,one of these two teams are going to hold a grudge over the other if they don't get to team 20, and the fans will definitely won't forget any time soon. The first game against these two teams will be one for the history books....

  4. Not happening in BK Heights, LIC is it. LIC #2 is currently being develop for residential. I would look more along Borden Ave, Jackson @ 21st by the 21-Ely & LIRR stop, midtown tunnel or even the other side of Vernon Blvd of the LIC #3. Even the Sunnyside rail yard by the HomeDepot.

  5. The most obvious location in LIC and it has not been mentioned is the Sunnyside Rail yards. This location would be ideal because it is land that is currently under utilized and you could keep it's current use by building a platform for the stadium (think Hudson Rail yards). You have numerous subway, buses and commuter rail lines underneath or near by. Plus Queens' diverse international population would be a perfect demographic for a soccer stadium and you will only be one or two stops from Midtown. I can't think of a better location.

    I always thought the Jets could have succeeded in coming
    to NYC if they had compromised and gone to LIC.

  6. I agree that this would never happen in BK Heights. LIC seems interesting and feasible. Here is one more idea into the mixer: Randall's Island. The field at Icahn Stadium can be expanded to accomodate soccer and the stadium itself, which currently seats 5-10K, has room for growth. If not at Icahn Stadium perhaps something can be done with the FIFA certified field just north of it (although building adequate seating there could be tough). In addition to having existing infrastructure Randall's Island is centrally located between three boroughs and has plenty of other existing athletic fields that will ensure that the stadium area will not be abandoned on non-game days (i.e. will not be Harrison). The fact that the fields are heavily used now suggests that those who are into athletics will make the effort to get to the island. This brings up the biggest issue, transportation. Its not great since there is no associated subway stop but here is the list of other options: car (new exit off the RFK bridge), bus (M35), ferry service (for past major events ferrys have run from 35th and 90th streets in Manhattan and LIC), and footbridge to/from Manhattan (newly renovated) and a future footbridge planned to connect to the Bronx. The ferries and footbridges could certainly lead to some unique pre-game experiences.

  7. What about a Williamsburg waterfront site? Good location + added bonus of populating stadium with the indigenous hipster contingent.

  8. Great comments from everyone, let me try to address a few.

    Randall's Island is all but out, although I would love to see pro soccer return there with it's rich history. The issue is the subway line, there is none, and Garber has been very specific about the stadium being close to a subway station. That's one of the perks (of few) at Harrison for Red Bull Arena, the train station is right there; only problem is that it has two entrance/exit doors for 18,000 people.

    The Hudson or Sunnyside railyards could work, but don't expect a platform over the lines. The issue is logistics specifically with other events at the stadium. Concerts require several big rigs to park and unload. Even with a ramp system to an elevated stadium that would be a bit of a nightmare.

    In regards to the LIC-2 site, yes highrises are going up there, but there is still a stadium size parcel set for another high-rise that is a bit up in the area due to the economy and housing market.

    I honestly feel that LIC is the ideal location for MLS with the mix of transportation options, views of the city, separation with RBNY, and that it wouldn't have to compete with another stadium in the same neighborhood. I will keep my ear to the pavement and check with our sources and keep you up to date. Thanks for following our blog!

  9. There is only one site that makes sense to build a soccer only stadium for the cosmos that would be flushing meadows queens. That area is a soccer hotbed. Look at the demographics of that area. Plus all the highway and transportation is already in place.

  10. To build in flushing meadows queens the cosmos need to have Fred Wilpon as part of the ownership.They could build a soccer only stadium seating around 35,000 in the parking lot of citi field and then build 3 stories parking garages to make up for the loss of parking spots that the mets would encounter. Look at what the yankees did with public parking in that congested area of the bronx they built parking spots in garages going up .


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