Is Queens ready for a third major arena in Flushing Meadows? Don Garber and Major League Soccer hope so. According to the Wall Street Journal, the league has approached state and city government about building a new soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The project to bring a second soccer stadium and franchise to NYC has been a key initiative for the league, having identified 19 potential sites over the last two years. The proposal would call for a 20,000-25,000 seat stadium to be located where the current Fountain of Industry is, as well as refurbishment of the surrounding ball fields and creation of eight acres of park elsewhere in the city to replace the converted park space. (It's worth noting that the distance between midtown Manhattan and the park is almost the same as the distance to Red Bull Arena in Harrison.)
MLS's rallying cry is "The world's game should be played in the world's park", and they have already begun to build support with government officials. District 39 Assemblyman Francisco Moya told the WSJ "This is exactly what this community needs. There's a true natural fan base for Major League Soccer…in the most diverse borough in the entire country."
The article also noted that Moya wouldn't let having a professional soccer franchise right in his district prevent him from being a eurosnob, stating the die-hard Barcelona supporter "wouldn't cheer for the new team".UPDATE: We were contacted by Assemblyman Moya, who assured us he would support an MLS team in Queens: "[The WSJ reporter] asked me if I would root for a New York team over my beloved FC Barcelona. I said I would root for them, but my allegiance will always be to my beloved Barcelona. Not that I would not root for a NY team." We'll have a full interview with the assemblyman later this weekend.
Before you going decking yourself out in the latest NY Cosmos fashion in celebration, remember that there's no team attached to the potential stadium plan. Garber and the league have put their faith in the "build it and they will come" model, preferring to take on building the stadium themselves. The league would then asking any potential ownership groups for an unprecedented - for MLS standards, at least - $100M franchise fee.
We reached out to Dan Courtmanche, Executive Vice President of Communications for MLS, with a few questions.
Gothamist: Commissioner Garber has been quoted over the last year about ensuring the second NYC stadium be located in the "urban core", ala JELD-WEN/BC Place/BBVA Compass Stadium. Flushing Meadows is far to the northeast of Queens - roughly the same distance from midtown Manhattan as Red Bull Arena is. Does Flushing Meadows meet the league's original vision for proximity to the city? DC: MLS considers Flushing an urban location.
It seemed like Pier 40 was a leading option for the stadium location for a short while; is there a reason the league chose to move in a different direction? Major League Soccer has reviewed 20 different locations in the five boroughs for a possible soccer stadium.
Given that this would be the third sporting venue in the neighborhood, does the league intend on working with the MTA about expansion of the subway and/or LIRR stations at Willets Point? It is too preliminary to discuss any potential enhancements to existing public transportation.
Assuming the stadium plan gets approved by the appropriate government agencies, does the league plan to wait until stadium construction is completed before adding the potential 20th franchise to the league, or would a franchise get selected and use alternative stadium space (ala Montreal) until the new stadium is completed? It also is too preliminary to discuss that item. We do not have a set timeframe on when we will add a 20th team. Our goal is to have a second team in NY at the earliest opportunity. The New York market is a priority, but it may take a couple of years before we have the team and stadium finalized...We believe another team in NY will build upon the momentum the Red Bulls have and ultimately create one of soccer’s great rivalries similar to what we see around the world in cities like London and Buenos Aires.