BY LUIS GRONDA
Major League Soccer has its eye on Queens once again.
Rumors surfaced earlier this week that the league is reportedly looking to build a new soccer stadium at Aqueduct Racetrack that would be home to its new team, New York City FC, which begins play next year.
This is the second time the league has looked in Queens to build a soccer-specific stadium. It was originally kicking the tires on building the arena at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but that controversial plan was killed after much protest from elected officials and residents. The stadium proposal drew the ire of many opponents, as it would have forced the City to give up parkland if the stadium was built there.
A deal was later struck to build the stadium in the Bronx, but that fell through as well, as developers were unable to reach a deal with a tenant that owns land needed to build the stadium there.
Now the league may be looking to South Ozone Park for its new stadium. NYC FC will be the second New York-area team to play in MLS, joining the Harrison, N.J.-based New York Red Bulls, which was one of the original franchises when it began play in 1996.
NYC FC has six players on its roster as it builds towards its first season, including English midfielder Frank Lampard, who played at Chelsea FC in London prior to signing with NYC FC, and Spanish forward David Villa, who has played at prestigious Spanish clubs such as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. The team will play its home games at Yankee Stadium until it can find a permanent home.
MLS did not mention the Aqueduct site in a statement about the situation.
“NYCFC is looking at sites all over New York City. We are working with the de Blasio Administration to find a world-class site for a soccer-specific stadium,” the spokesperson said.
Elected officials representing the area expressed mixed feelings about the plan in statements released this week.
“Currently, I am extremely hesitant to welcome a soccer stadium to the Aqueduct site. Exact location and size of the stadium, traffic patterns, public safety and the certain impact on the surrounding neighborhood quality of life are just some of the issues that I would need answers to in examining this proposal. My constituents need as many facts as possible now, as we start to have discussions on this issue,” State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D- Middle Village) said.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D- Ozone Park) said he has not been told of any plans to build the stadium at Aqueduct.
“I have yet to be informed about any plans, but if City Hall hopes to be successful, any planning must include the local community. There are obvious obstacles, including transportation and access, however I am open to any conversation that will increase economic development and create jobs,” he said.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), on the other hand, looked more positively on a potential soccer stadium within his district.
“A soccer stadium would create jobs, stimulate economic development and make Queens the city’s premier sports destination,” he said. “In the days and weeks ahead, I will be working closely with the community and my fellow elected officials to see if the proposed site in my district is the right fit before making a final decision.”
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @luisgronda.