Borough president not sold on potential NYCFC stadium in Bronx

YankeeStadiumSoccer1 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

One of the biggest proponents of bringing Major League Soccer to the Bronx is suddenly not so hot on the idea of building a separate soccer-specific stadium for New York City FC.

Last summer, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. wrote to MLS Commissioner Don Garber asking the league to consider the Bronx as a permanent home for NYC FC. Nearly a year later, Diaz seems less open to the idea of NYC FC playing in a home of their own in the borough.

“On the soccer stadium as a whole, I’ll say this: I’m not there yet,” Diaz Jr. told Crain’s New York Business. “That said, I am open-minded. As I said in my State of the Borough address, with a good community-benefits agreement, with proper community engagement, I think we can get to a place where folks understand the economic benefits of the stadium. But those benefits have to be real and be felt.

“It can’t just benefit the royal family of Abu Dhabi [which co-owns the franchise] or the Yankees.”

These quotes come almost 11 months after Diaz Jr. made a public plea to Garber that the league should consider bringing soccer to the Bronx, and not in Queens.

In a letter addressed to Garber on June 13, Diaz Jr. wrote, “It would appear that there is little enthusiasm for world class soccer in Queens. There’s a much different story in the Bronx.”

Diaz Jr. then cited the Spain vs. Republic of Ireland match last summer at Yankee Stadium and the announced attendance of 39,368 as reasons why the Bronx would make a great home for soccer.

“While here, these (Spain and Ireland) soccer fans spent money in local businesses and restaurants, bringing tremendous economic activity to the 161st Street corridor,” Diaz Jr. wrote. “If a Major League Soccer franchise were to make its permanent home in our borough, we can replicate that financial boost, either at 161st Street or elsewhere, more than 20 times a year.”

“It’s the most-loved and most-watched sport in the world,” Diaz told the New York Daily News. “I’m saying let’s take a look at the Bronx. The Bronx is full of different cultures. People from all over the world live here that have one thing in common: their love of soccer.”

NYC FC recently announced that they’ll be playing their inaugural season at Yankee Stadium and the New York Times reported that the club’s first three years will be played in the confines of the House that Steinbrenner built.

In the meantime, the message from NYC FC officials has been that they’ll take their time looking at all their options, whether that’s in the Bronx or not. Yankees president Randy Levine even hinted that they’ll look at options outside of the five boroughs, moving away from the team line as the club struggles to find a permanent home.

Last December, details over a potential 10-acre site a few blocks from Yankee Stadium were leaked in a number of reports in the New York press. The construction of a soccer-specific stadium within New York City was reportedly one of the goals of former mayor Mike Bloomberg and the city was reportedly willing to issue $350 million in tax-exempt bonds and another $21.5 million in other tax exemptions to NYC FC.

That plan has garnered plenty of local opposition but also some support from residents who see a new stadium as a way to revitalize the neighborhood.

Since Bloomberg has left the mayor’s office, NYC FC has had a tougher time moving forward with stadium plans to due current mayor Bill De Blasio’s reluctance to spent public money on a private enterprise.

As previously reported, NYC FC is close to announcing that their temporary training center will be on the campus of Manhattanville College, in Purchase, New York.

———-

What do you think of these comments? Do you see NYC FC gaining any ground on a stadium site in the Bronx in 2014? Do you think building within the five boroughs is a lost cause? Should they look to build a stadium in Westchester?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Featured, Major League Soccer, MLS- New York City FC. Bookmark the permalink.

90 Responses to Borough president not sold on potential NYCFC stadium in Bronx

  1. slowleftarm says:

    New York Yankees FC is going to be outside the five boroughs, just like RBNY and the minor league clown club, Hempstead Cosmos. I wonder how that’ll affect all the “fans” whose loyalties are dependent upon a convenient commute to the game?

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      I found it funny that you put “fans” in scare quotes. I’ve never subscribed to the idea that as a fan I should have to work for the team. I already work to earn money to buy tickets and merchandise. Making me work even harder and/or spend more money just gives a reason to reevaluate my choice of entertainment options. I go to the match to be entertained, not to fulfill a sense of duty toward the entertainers.

      • slowleftarm says:

        Yeah, I don’t know what you just described but it isn’t being a fan.

        • UclaBruinGreat says:

          I agree with King Googley on this one Slow. Being a fan isn’t always about the pissin*-contest many people try to make it into. Many people describe the behavior of a “true fan” as behavior that I personally would describe as loser behavior that lacks perspective. At the end of the day, sports is simply entertainment, although entertainment that comes with deep personal attachment because there is civic pride involved. With that being said though, it is supposed to be fun to go to a game, and you should do it with that purpose solely in mind. You don’t serve the team, the team serves you. If they serve you well, then you can choose to reciprocate.

          For example: I am a big Dodgers fan, and I go to the occasional games. Would I ever buy season tickets? No! The drive to and from Dodger Stadium is not something I want to do frequently. You might try to boost your own ego and say something like, “you aren’t a true fan!” I will simply laugh and you and say, “Whatever bro. Get a life.”

          • slowleftarm says:

            My point is someone who has followed a team and then will trade in that allegiance for a shorter trip to the game is not a fan in any real sense of the word.

            It doesn’t mean you have to attend every game. But if a new team started up in LA and you decided to become a fan because they were closer to your house, I’d say you weren’t a real fan and lacked any understanding of what it means to support a team. I’ll leave it to you whether that means I need to get a life.

            • UclaBruinGreat says:

              If that is your point, then I am fine with it, and slightly agree with it. Admittedly, there is a fine line between wanting convenience and being a band-wagon fan. I won’t judge band-wagon fans though, because that would make me a hypocrite considering my last post.

            • KingGoogleyEye says:

              slow: “It doesn’t mean you have to attend every game.”

              Or does it? I’m sure we could find many who would define “fan” as someone who makes every effort to attend every game…or at least every home game…or at least every weekend home game…or—well, you get the point: there may be as many definitions of “fan” as there are fans.

              Don’t take this to mean that I’m rejecting your definition. Like UclaBruin, I am fine with it and recognize that the root meaning of the word—fanatic—demands some sort of “extra devotion.”

              Where I draw the line is when my support for a team becomes greater than the reward for doing so. For some people, I am sure that just being a lunatic fanatic is the reward (since in many cases, their teams are terrible).

            • Lil' Zeke says:

              You’re a fan if you notice you become happy when your team succeeds. The seeds of this tend to be sown over time; and our lives consist of several blocks of time. So I suggest not beating yourself or others up about it either way.

            • fischy says:

              “followed a team”? There isn’t a team to follow yet.

            • The world according to slowleftarm says:

              Thank goodness we have your moral compass to quell the anarchy, restore order and educate us all regarding the requirements needed to be a real American, and now, a real fan. It’s with bated breath I await your next sermon.

      • Joe B NYC says:

        I agree 100%. I know exactly what you’re talking about.

    • jcr says:

      The borough president’s comments are just good politics and good negotiating. He doesn’t want to appear that he did not get the best deal possible for the Bronx and just rolling over. I don’t see this is a blow to the chances to having a soccer stadium in the Bronx near Yankee Stadium. The deal and the situation just looks too good for all parties involved especially with looming bankruptcy of the entity that owns those garages which will default on bonds.

    • don Lamb says:

      If they are in the same position as the Harrison Red Bulls, I think this would be a big let down.

    • Vic says:

      If NYFC stadium is put in one of the boroughs other than Manhattan than it will be a similar commute to most fans as going to Harrison. There’s PATH trains that run from NYC to Harrison that take about 25 minutes and run 24 hours a day.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Houston and Philly set their urban stadia in poor areas as (at least ostensible) development projects. Some of the other stadia are expansions or re-tasking of existing stadia. I don’t think NYC2 fans fully considered the buy-in on an urban NYC stadium. The idea is usually some deluxe stadium in the boroughs and it’s like, OK, tens or hundreds of millions for land plus more than the $100 million for a MLS cookiecutter set of stands.

      There is a reason the Jets, Giants, and the old Cosmos ended up in NJ.

      I also wish MLS would lock in land and stadia before awarding teams because now everyone knows they need something. Property owners know the potential buyer and can get a premium. Politicians can leverage the deal like this. etc.

  2. Jay Boca says:

    MLS was premature in giving Man City an MLS franchise without an actual stadium plan in place. This is really a mess and will get worse when the team starts playing games in an empty baseball stadium.

    • BrianK says:

      Jay,…this is a classic shakedown. Diaz has them over a barrell. MLS committed to NYC and the Bronx,…and now this sleazy politician is saying “what’s in it for me? You want to get this done,…where are the brown envelopes of cash and the trips to the middle east so I can share in the harems.”

      • Troy in his apartment says:

        ^ WE HAVE A WINNER. Brian K is on point

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        Yes, Brian K wins for “most over the top comment.”

        What evidence is there that Diaz is a “sleazy politician?” I read his original letter and his comments here: “with a good community-benefits agreement, with proper community engagement, I think we can get to a place where folks understand the economic benefits of the stadium. But those benefits have to be real and be felt.”

        What is sleazy about doing his job to protect the interests of the borough? Unless you have evidence of a shake-down, you shouldn’t accuse him of one.

        • john brown says:

          Here is the clean honorable Rune Diaz — where is my Oil money

          The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating allegations of corruption against two Bronx lawmakers — State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. and his son, Assemblyman Rubén Díaz Jr., according to an official familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

          F.B.I. Agents Investigate 2 Lawmakers in the Bronx

          link to nytimes.com

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            john brown: that’s an interesting article…from 2007! How’d that investigation turn out?

            • john brown says:

              What diffirence does it make that it was 2007 the guy is dirty he wants a payoff from the OIL Sheik . Can’t be shocked.

              • KingGoogleyEye says:

                the difference it makes is that after seven years I would expect to know the outcome—which is what I asked.

              • don Lamb says:

                Things like this often do not have outcomes that are public. Nor would an “innocent” outcome necessarily proclaim any real innocence. The nature of politics is very seedy. Things that we are all up in arms about with FIFA happen all over the place, all of the time. Not that I know anything about this particular situation, but it would be naïve to think that Diaz will do everything he can to help get a stadium built without looking for things (for himself or for his constituents; legally or illegally) in return.

        • JayAre says:

          This is 2014 you don’t need evidence that a politician is sleazy they have donors and they’ll naturally look out for the biggest donors interest so therefore they are corrupt it’s all about finding the lesser of 2 evils.

          • KingGoogleyEye says:

            Yes, yes: all politicians are evil and everything they do it wrong.

            • jloome says:

              No, most are vainglorious, pompous and narcissistic, and a fair chunk are as crooked as they feel they can safely be. And I covered them for twenty plus years. Don’t kid yourself.

              Plus, the FBI doesn’t start investigations casually.

              But hey, keep defending that first point “King”.

              • Lil' Zeke says:

                I too am suspicious of broad-brush demonization. But hey, keep thinking inside your box

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          He invited them in, probably not listing a bunch of community oriented conditions.. But now that they’re talking turkey and somewhat committed, it’s a considerations list for his support. Even if it’s not quid pro quo it’s a little bit of a bait and switch. If anything, if a politician is this eager, you expect breaks, not demands.

          Unfortunately we publicly fund stadia and that makes them a political football, in addition to a serious subject. In Houston our current mayor implicitly ran against the Dynamo stadium before approving it when in office on the ground that the former mayor had pre-approved the project and it would be bad business to reverse.

      • Ted Drews says:

        It’s the new type of redlining.

        It used to be businesses stayed out of neighborhoods like the So. Bronx. Even if they wanted to go there, no bank would give them a loan. Now people want to do business there and it becomes a big shakedown.

        Yes, lines are drawn. And all in the name of…wait for it…the PEOPLE.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          I believe the Dynamo stadium was held up by the county because specific commissioners said they needed to be consulted before the pro forma vote could occur, wouldn’t schedule it until they got their meeting. I believe the net result was a nominal set of seats are supposed to be cheaper. I couldn’t even tell you which.

    • David K says:

      I agree nycfc and MLS gave up all of their leverage by letting them in the league with no stadium. the come and we will build it model has not worked for MLS.

  3. Aguinaga says:

    Is Garber ever held accountable for his F ups, like any other employee? Or is he just an owner puppet on this one?

    • inkedAG says:

      Total puppet with dollar signs in his eyes.

    • Gerard D. says:

      What F ups?

      Guy has overseen some of the greatest sports league growth ever.

      • solles says:

        while I agree with this almost completely and think Don Garber has done a magnificent job with MLS (truly, not being sarcastic), he has made mistakes, the largest being Chivas USA.

  4. Alex H says:

    The “accurate” headline: “Bronx Borough President Not Yet Sold His Support For Potential NYCFC Stadium In Bronx”

    I am pretty sure that if the royal family of Abu Dhabi spreads some money around the precincts that Mr. Diaz will be “sold.”

    • slowleftarm says:

      It wasn’t exactly easy or fast for the Yankees to get their own stadium approved and built and that’s for possibly the premier franchise in American sports in a city where baseball is king. I don’t think it’s happening with DeBlasio as mayor and he’s there at least through 2017.

    • beto says:

      Exactly, i was hoping the headline would be phrased more like “Diaz not SOLD on a soccer stadium yet…”

  5. Gerard D. says:

    Mr. Diaz is but another a long line of crooks and thieves.

    • Alex H says:

      In fairness to Mr. Diaz, I am sure the same can be said for most Mid East princes, soccer team owners, FIFA, etc. So it is not like he is alone in this.

  6. malkin says:

    Sounds more like posturing for a few extra parks or other community benefits to be thrown in at Evil Empire Squared’s expense, rather than being “not so hot on” the idea as a whole. Or more likely he’s just being intentionally wishy washy because he’s trying to be the first politician in history to ever do such a thing.

  7. Fred says:

    Not from the area but how feasible would it be to place an SSS next to the Jets/Giants stadium? Is that even a viable solution? Transportation, easy to get to or not?

    • john brown says:

      The Jets/Giants play in New Jersey so that area is not a viable place for NYCFC.

    • Brain Guy says:

      Well, besides making a mockery of the “New York City FC” idea, the location wouldn’t solve the alleged access problems that are one of the main reasons given for adding a second team besides RBNY. I mean, if New Yorkers won’t come to Harrison because of the inconvenience, they’re going to need licensed guides to get them to watch soccer in the meadowlands.

      • Gerrit says:

        New Yorkers won’t go to Harrison because we deserve a team that isn’t named after a soda.

        • slowleftarm says:

          Most people don’t care about that. A lot New Yorkers do have an issue with crossing the Hudson, which I don’t get.

    • Alceste says:

      Might be feasible (on the site of old Giants stadium), but you’ve still got the NJ problem that has hurt the Red Bulls (and even worse public transportation options than RBA).

    • RBNY says:

      NYCFC and their “fans” love to claim superiority over other clubs in the area because of the supposed “playing within the city limits” crap argument. Meadowlands would sit them squarely in NJ (point of criticism that they use against us constantly) and in a place tougher to get to than RBA.

      If the stadium were to be built out in the Meadowlands, it would be caput for NYCFC.

  8. Battler says:

    An old-school shakedown. Get in bed with dogs, you get fleas.

  9. Stephen Healy says:

    time for the political games to get more benefits for his constituents. smart move by him but a reason people dont like politicians

    • Alex H says:

      Or mid-east royal families and soccer ownership groups….

    • atd says:

      In other words, people don’t like politicians because politicians work to help the people who elected them. Crazy world we live in.

  10. Brain Guy says:

    It has to worry NYC FC that Diaz played the “royal family of Abu Dhabi” card. Even the uber-powerful Yankees had to jump through some hoops to get their new baseball stadium built, but if the soccer team comes to be associated in the public’s mind mainly with the foreign half of the ownership group, that can only make things harder for them.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Good point. On the other hand, maybe this will help to galvanize the community into demanding the “real and felt” benefits Diaz alluded to. One might expect the community to be flexible when the stadium could benefit the beloved Yankees, but not some foreign royalty.

    • Increase says:

      “Not in my ‘Merica Abu dhabiis gunna built stadiums.” Apparently that kinda political play works anywhere.

      • David K says:

        While I do love MLS and want to see NYCFC succeed so that the league will grow, I do have a had time feeling like these Uber rich owners need to get a bunch of tax write-offs and freebies to build a stadium. They bought this franchise with the promise they would build a stadium they need to go the Phil Anchutz route and self finance the damned thing.

  11. RBNY says:

    NYCFC will be playing in Westchester when all is said and done.

  12. Ian says:

    “It can’t just benefit the royal family of Abu Dhabi [who co-owns the franchise] or the Yankees.”

    It’s like he just googled Manchester City and made the connection. Way to go.

  13. JayAre says:

    The key part was it can’t just benefit the royal family. That mean hey guys greese my palms I’m not just rolling over it’s got to benefit me too

    • Alex H says:

      Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding!!!!!!

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Where do you see evidence of this? Diaz stated what should be obvious: “with proper community engagement, I think we can get to a place where folks understand the economic benefits of the stadium.” The stadium needs community support and apparently Diaz believes that people in the Bronx aren’t as easily duped as so many other stadium-hosting communities around the country.

  14. Jim says:

    Let’s be honest, Diaz is an influential but ultimately small time player here. DiBlasio is the big fish. And he’s made it perfectly clear that he has zero interest in the sweetheart deal that Bloomberg had proposed. NYCFC simply HAS to be in the five boroughs (well, probably 4 boroughs– fans would avoid SI like they do Harrison). Their plan of relying on those tax free bonds (tax free for 38 years, mind you, far longer than the life expectancy of a modern stadium), is pretty much gone.

    Personally, I’m totally ok with DiBlasio’s stance. I don’t mind a deal that has the city putting up money for infrastructure improvements around a stadium– those have a real benefit for whichever area gets chosen. But those bonds would have cost the taxpayers a significant amount of funding. If the Yanks and Man City think this team will be a success, let them take all the risk.

    • KingGoogleyEye says:

      Well said, Jim. Let’s put an end to cities relying on “hoped for” benefits—that don’t materialize—when stadium owners reap immediate, tangible benefits.

    • Drew11 says:

      NYCFC is a TV and merchandising play. MLS will just walk to the burbs rather than be blackmailed by the local pols.

  15. Super Metro says:

    what! a politician changed his mind after he said one thing….com on….? . Bet u in a year or two after all the strings have been attached this guy will be the no. 1 backer of this project. It won’t be cheap for the yankkes-familiy combo, but they have the $$$.

  16. KingGoogleyEye says:

    I don’t see any evidence that Diaz “changed his position,” became “less open,” is “suddenly not so hot” on building the stadium, or that he is asking for bribes or kickbacks or anything other than to protect the interests of his borough.

    It’s well-documented that stadium builders and owners across the country have benefited financially while the local community foots the bill. Diaz promoted his borough as a excellent home for soccer, but that doesn’t mean he wants his community to suffer for it or that he should readily accept whatever proposal the owners present. “Come play at my house,” doesn’t mean “do whatever you want.”

    • JayAre says:

      The stadium is privately funded they just need the land.

      • KingGoogleyEye says:

        And apparently “$350 million in tax-exempt bonds and another $21.5 million in other tax-exemptions.” At least, that’s what Bloomberg reportedly promised.

        • Daniel F says:

          The Bronx Parking Authority already had tax breaks at the parking garage that is located on the site formerly across from old Yankee Stadium. If the stadium did happen with NYCFC paying for some of the debt for the BPA, and all the tax breaks coming from Bloomberg when he was still the Mayor, the city wouldn’t get a penny till 2054.

          Good thing DeBlasio put a stop on it.

      • Brain Guy says:

        “They just need the land.” That’s like saying, “I’ve got the train but I just need the track.” It’s privately funded when they can cover ALL the costs.

        • Kfre says:

          To be clear, it appears NYC FC would borrow $350 mil and pay the city principal and interest. The tax exemptions go to who ever holds the bond as an investor. Taxpayers would be negatively impacted if NYC FC goes bust and cannot make the payments leaving the City of NY holding the bag. The benefit to soccer club is the relatively better source of financing by going thru the city.

  17. AcidBurn says:

    Come on Abu Dhabi, simply pony up a cool billion and we’ll get Pier 40 done. Now THAT would be something to see. Go big or go home.

    • EQeki says:

      Why dont they just go across the street and level some buildings…

      The Golden State Warriors just lost out on that same proposal in San Francisco. A lot of people would be against that

  18. Mason says:

    How much power do Borough Presidents have? Stated differently: what kind of budget do they control?

    • jeremy says:

      Diaz has 100% control over this situation. BPs are as powerful as their constituent support, and he is insanely popular in the Bronx. How Diaz goes, so goes the Bronx. If he doesn’t like this stadium, it is not getting built. He can turn a massive voting bloc against di Blasio with minimal effort, BdB is not going to cross him.

    • atd says:

      Not much formal influence; they used to have much more, because they used to be an important part of appropriation and land-use decisions, but they lost those powers in the late 1980s as a consequence of a Supreme Court decision. But Jeremy is right in saying that he has considerable informal influence. He’s the leading elected representative of the Bronx, and he belongs to the same party as the mayor, and it’s unlikely that the Democratic mayor would go for something the leading Democratic official in the Bronx doesn’t want.

      I don’t see anything here to contradict his earlier statement. He still wants the stadium in the Bronx. All he’s doing is communicating that he wants what he considers a fair deal from the ownership group — maybe some recreational facilities, maybe an agreement to use local workers, maybe fair terms on the purchase of that parking facility or whatever they were fighting over. He’s doing this because of some local backlash over the new Yankees Stadium.

      • Dirk McQuigley says:

        Such as the reneged promises about replacing park land next to the last Yankee Stadium and where the new one sits. Or it could have been a bait -and-switch. He could have supported the plan but once MLS approved NYFC and announced that they would initially play at Yankee Stadium, he was fine with that. Why? Because those businesses around the ballpark would get another 20 plus home dates to pump outside money into the neighborhood. Let’s face it, people from the Upper East Side, Westchester, NJ, and CT, don’t usually trek to the Bronx unless they have a reason.

  19. EQeki says:

    Queens

  20. Twosevenstreet says:

    Why not try and strike a deal with Columbia University to upgrade their football stadium or build a new one with Columbia owned land.

    Columbia like NYU hold a lot of power in the city and Columbia owns lots of property in Upper Manhattan.

    Columbia’s stadium is by a train station and currently has 17,000 seats. With the layout of their sports complex a Columbia / NYCFC combo stadium could be amazing.

    link to gocolumbialions.com

    link to maps.google.com

    The new stadium could be an all in one stadium for Soccer, Football and Lacrosse

  21. JL says:

    The people that own NYCFC are billionaires. Their money is going to be passed down generations forever; it will never run out. Why do they give so much fucks about spending half a billion?

  22. NYCFC's new home says:

    Randall’s Island

  23. Island Hopping in the Hudson says:

    Governor’s Island