Queens Borough President Melinda Katz gave her State of the Borough speech today and mentioned the possibility of building a soccer or hockey stadium in Willets Point.
“We should be unafraid, we should think bigger, bolder and more comprehensively. We need to review positioning ourselves for success by thinking creatively about further options that address our changing borough’s needs, a new school, an eco-recreation center, more parking to accommodate simultaneous big events that we have there now, because all those big events that we have now are wreaking havoc on the soccer fields and grass in Flushing Meadows for parking. And to help pay for it, let’s consider a soccer stadium, let’s consider a hockey stadium. Just imagine if we, the World’s Borough, hosted the World Cup or the Stanley Cup.”
New York City has long been looking to develop Willets Point, or the Iron Triangle as it’s known. Recent proposals have centered around a mall and shopping center along with hotels and housing in Citi Field’s parking long with housing in Willets Point coming after environmental cleanup of the area.
Those plans came to a screeching halt in 2015 when a state court ruled that the land could not be used for a mall. New York’s Appellate Court ruled that the land could only be used for stadium related purposes. Following that decision, developers Sterling Equities suggested that a soccer stadium could be built on the land instead.
According to a NY Times report in 2015, under the developers proposal, NYCFC could build a stadium next to Citi Field in exchange for donating to a housing fund set up by the city.
The development of the area is currently in a lengthy court battle as the backers of the project continue to push for their proposal to build in a mall in the area. Developers have made it clear that without the mall being built, they would have no incentive to build the less profitable affordable housing nearby.
Willets Point is not too far from the site MLS originally targeted to build a soccer specific stadium for NYCFC in 2013. MLS believed a SSS in Flushing Meadows Corona Park would be the long term solution to the new expansion team’s woes.
A stadium in Willets Point either in Citi Field’s parking lot or across the street in the Iron Triangle would be easily accessible by public transit and highways. Citi Field is directly on the 7 train line with express trains to and from Manhattan and the Long Island Rail Road has a nearby spot used on Mets game days as well as during the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The area is also surrounded on three sides by highways, making it easily accessible for fans who choose to drive.
State Assemblyman Francisco Moya praised the Borough President’s statement and supports any move bringing NYCFC to Queens.
“Today’s announcement by Borough President Katz on Willets Point is one our community has been waiting to hear. Not only am I thrilled to hear her dedication to cleaning up and developing Willets Point, but to hear her support for building a soccer stadium shows her vision and understanding of our neighborhood and our borough. As a die hard football supporter and having lived my whole life only a few blocks from Willets, I can’t imagine a better fit. There is no other place in this city besides the world’s borough that should be the permanent home to the beautiful game. I will continue to support any efforts made by the Borough President, including those that include NYCFC, to make this project a reality.”
It may not be as easy as simply starting construction for City Football Group. As developers already know, there is vehement community opposition to the development of the area for private use after the land was seized via eminent domain.
Adding to public opposition, the New York Mets lobbied against the original MLS plan for a stadium nearby in Flushing Meadows over concerns that a neighboring stadium would compete with them for off season events.
Since that original proposal, the New York Yankees have bought a portion of NYCFC which may further strain relations between NYCFC looking to build in the Mets’ backyard.
Adding to the competition, the New York Mets are said to be in talks with the New York Islanders over building a hockey arena in the area. The Islanders who currently play at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center are considering a move if the team and the arena owners can’t agree on a series of upgrades as reported by Bloomberg.
To an outsider, it would appear that the odds are currently stacked against a soccer specific stadium in Queens.
NYCFC are currently playing in Yankee Stadium and have not announced any plans to play elsewhere in the near future.
Stay tuned for updates to this very quickly developing story.