A brief history of NYCFC’s arduous stadium search

The wait is finally over. New York City Football Club will soon have a real home.

Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday morning officially announced the city’s agreement with NYCFC to build a professional soccer stadium in the Willets Point neighborhood of Queens.

The announcement ends the club’s decades-long search for its own football stadium.

Here’s the long road NYCFC and its fans have come before this week’s announcement.

The early years

During then-MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s State of the Union on November 17, 2010, he confirmed that the league was interested in expanding into the city. The New York Red Bulls were already an MLS franchise, but they played their home games at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

“We’re very focused on our 20th team in New York,” Garber said. “We’re very, very focused on this whole process and we’re hoping to achieve something for 2013.”

Garber kept his word. Three years later, NYCFC was officially named the newest club in MLS on May 21, 2013. The new franchise, owned by City Football Group and Yankee Global Enterprises, began recruiting players, coaches and staff.

But they also needed a home.

A long search

The club confirmed in 2014 that they would play home games at Yankee Stadium, adding that plans were underway to build their own stadium.

The search got off to a rocky start two years ago. In 2012, the club pursued a plan to build a stadium at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but for various reasons – including the proposed stadium on parkland – the proposal failed to garner enough support to become a reality.

NYCFC turned around and looked at other locations in the five boroughs. The New York Post reported in 2014 that the club was close to agreeing on a deal for a 28,000-seat stadium south of Yankee Stadium. However, the city soon abandoned the plan due to concerns about the planning and the size of the stadium.

A location outside of the city was also considered. The franchise submitted a bid for a new stadium at Belmont Park in Elmont in 2017. In one season, the club was forced to play two regular-season games away from its home stadium of Yankee Stadium—one at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut and the other at Citi Field in Queens—due to scheduling issues with the Yankees .

The New York Islanders, who had also submitted a bid for the land, eventually won a $1 billion development bid to build a new 18,000-seat hockey arena on the site.

In 2018, NYCFC was associated with a development concept by Harlem River Yards that would have built a 26,000-seat soccer-specific venue along the South Bronx waterfront.

Club president Jon Patricof said at the time he felt NYCFC “[continued] making good progress” in finding a stadium site, but noted that building a stadium at Harlem River Yards – the plan eventually fell through – was not their top priority.

“We have submitted something to the state as part of an expression of interest,” Patricof told reporters. “But it is. This page is not an active page.”

After more than half a decade of searching, NYCFC was still without a stadium of its own.

Unprecedented home game

Earlier this year, a unique situation highlighted NYCFC’s stadium problems.

During the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League (a continental competition for professional football teams in North America), the club had to play a home game in a CONCACAF-sanctioned venue. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field were not allowed by CONCACAF, and Red Bull Arena was unavailable for renovations.

With limited stadium options in the tri-state area, NYCFC played a home CONCACAF game at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on February 23 – they won 4-0.

The club had their MLS home opener against LA Galaxy four days later, leading to the decision to host the CONCACAF game in the West, NYCFC CEO Brad Sims said in a statement.

“It’s frustrating that this home game is being played on the other side of the country,” said Sims. “However, given our season opener in LA Galaxy just days later and our inability to play at Yankee Stadium or any of our alternative home venues, we felt this arrangement gave our club the best possible chance of two positive results.”

A new home

All that is now a thing of the past.

NYCFC – which won the MLS Cup in 2021 – will get the city’s first professional soccer stadium. It is part of a major project that also includes 2,500 new affordable housing units, a hotel and retail space.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023 and be completed by 2027, according to the mayor. The stadium is 100% privately funded.

NYCFC and its fans have been dreaming of a new home for a decade. In about five years this dream will become reality.

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