MLS president: Yankee Stadium, Queens still possible for NYCFC
A temporary home for New York City FC at Yankee Stadium isn't a done deal and the pursuit of a new stadium in Queens isn't quite dead, MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said recently in response to reports surrounding the future of the league's new expansion team.
Speaking to SI.com on issues related to MLS expansion, Abbott insisted, "No one has decided to play in Yankee Stadium yet. That's genuinely true."
His comments came a few of days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office retracted a statement indicating that the Bronx baseball stadium "will become the home of" NYCFC, which is scheduled to enter MLS in 2015.
The Yankees are a minority partner in the expansion venture spearheaded by Manchester City of the English Premier League. In May, Yankees co-owner Hal Steinbrenner said, "Tentatively we are working on (NYCFC) playing at Yankee Stadium."
Abbott declined to speculate on other potential temporary venues. Regardless of where NYCFC kicks off, the long-time MLS executive doesn't expect the team to spend too long in temporary digs.
"No one is envisioning a long period of time here in an interim stadium. I don't know exactly what that time is, but it's intended to be fairly short," Abbott said. "On a daily basis they're working on a long-term stadium solution, as are we."
Manchester City and the Yankees have taken over the lead role in the pursuit. MLS' original intention was to finalize a stadium deal on its own and then field bids from interested ownership groups. The league settled on a site in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in late 2012 and hoped to open a 25,000-seat, privately-financed arena in 2016.
But navigating state and local bureaucracy proved to be difficult and with a $100 million offer from Manchester City and the Yankees on the table, MLS opted to award its 20th franchise anyway and hope the new owners had better luck.
"The most effective way to get the stadium project completed was to complete the transaction with Manchester City, and ultimately the Yankees, and allow them to move forward with the city, doing the things they do very well," Abbott said. "We concluded that our interests were aligned and that they would be an effective group to get the stadium deal done."
He said that the league didn't consider the investment made by the Yankees as necessary for either the awarding of the ownership rights or the construction of a new facility.
"But I think (the Yankees) going to be a very good part of the ownership group," Abott said. "They're very experienced in getting stadium projects done."
The Yankees opened their $1.5 billion diamond in 2009.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. told New York's Daily News two weeks ago that NYCFC and MLS "walked away from the conversations they were having in Queens," as he lobbied for the club to consider building near Yankee Stadium.
Abbott said that wasn't true. When asked if prospects in Flushing Meadows were dead, Abbott offered an emphatic "No".
He said he didn't believe the league was taking a risk by awarding its 20th franchise before a new stadium was secured. A lengthy delay could take a crippling toll on the image of a club that's intended to embody the glamour of New York City, the Yankees and the EPL. But it won't come to that, Abbott said.
"Based on our two years of prep work on it, I don't believe it's going to be a process that's going to take that level of time," he said. "Based on the work we've already done, I think we have the right group here."