Excerpts below are from the Queens Chronicle:
The first thing that needs to be restated over and over again is that they HAVE NO TEAM! This is a SPECULATIVE STADIUM. Have you ever heard of such a thing??
Yet MLS has been deliberative in courting potential owners, stating certification for ULURP is its primary goal.The second thing is the refusal to share a stadium.
“I fully anticipate that the ownership group here will be of the like of the groups that we have in the league now,” Abbott said. “It is a priority to have the best ownership group we can have for this club. If we can accomplish that prior to the commencement of ULURP, that would be great. But if we can’t, we’re still moving forward with the project.”
MLS has expanded to 19 clubs since its inception in 1996. Attendance ranks third among major sports in the United States, behind football and baseball. It has touted club-owned, soccer specific homes as the bedrock of its model — fueling the push for an exclusive Queens home over using an existing site like Citi Field.The economic boom has not materialized. In fact, it's put Harrison deep in the hole and lowered their bond rating.
It also points to the success of the Seattle Sounders, with a notable average attendance of 44,000 per game, as proof of the sport’s growing popularity. Yet the Sounders share CenturyLink Field with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
Red Bull Arena was positioned to be the heart of a boom time for a rejuvenated Harrison. But those times haven’t fully arrived, for either Harrison or its businesses.The leagues don't turn a profit.
For taverns and restaurants like The Greenroom, or any number of bars and eateries within walking distance of the stadium, gameday can be fruitful. MLS last week touted a petition signed by 1,000 businesses across Queens supporting the creation of a stadium, fueled by the belief the economic benefit will reverberate miles beyond the park.
But walk three blocks past the Harrison PATH train stop, where Harrison Avenue feeds into I-280, and business owners casually, and anonymously, tell a different tale. Gameday shows some uptick, but nothing spectacular, they say. Fans catch the game, then catch the train.
The results have been positive on a macroeconomic level for New Jersey, according to James Hughes, dean of Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. The net benefit of any structure such as an arena ultimately depends on the number of out-of-state dollars brought in.
“The most beneficial impact would be if most of the patrons came from New York,” he said. “If all the patrons are from New Jersey, it’s recycling dollars that are already here.”
The creation of a competing soccer stadium in Queens may or may not negate that benefit, depending on the Red Bulls’ ability to retain their fans, while Queens draws new ones.
“It really does depend on the individual circumstances,” Hughes said, adding there are no guarantees.
And as a private entity, the league does not offer dollar figures to vet. Its history suggests a stuttering growth.They will destroy or disrupt major water controls, not to mention the streambed of the Flushing River.
In 2002, Garber shrunk the league down, nixing its two Florida franchises, the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny, for financial reasons.
Fewer than one-third of the league’s franchises finished the 2011 season in the black, with crown jewel clubs like the Los Angeles Galaxy failing to generate a profit, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Abbott did not divulge the exact number of profitable clubs, but said the overall standing of the league’s franchises has improved since 2011.
“We don’t talk specifically about that,” Abbott said. “I will say there are a number of teams that don’t make money. There are more every year that are.”
Some procedural hurdles loom. The 6.6-acre Pool of Industry is part of a water management system that controls the flow of water to Flushing Bay and partially mitigates the tide’s effects on Meadow and Willow Lakes. Filling it would require mitigation efforts allowing the flow of water to continue.Even the Parkies are against it.
The water table is also particularly high in the park, which Abbott said MLS will alleviate by building the stadium on an elevation.
Any changes to the Pool of Industry may be subject to oversight and approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, according to the USTA’s draft EIS.
Those approvals would have to come after the project has gained local approval and successfully navigated ULURP.
“There’s a very rigorous regulatory environment around the building of this site, and the stadium is not going to get built unless we comply with that, and we’re prepared to,” Abbott said.
Two former parks employees with long ties to Flushing Meadows Corona Park expressed strong dismay over the stadium proposal.
Arne Abramowitz, the park’s administrator from 1986 to 1993, acknowledged the strong role soccer plays in the park, but said a stadium is not a logical next step.
“There’s no bigger advocate for soccer than myself,” he said. “However, that’s recreational.”
The impact on the park would be “tremendous,” he added.
Of particular concern is the loss of trees, which the USTA’s draft EIS pegs at about 71 if the soccer stadium is built, a figure which Abbott could not confirm. Though the trees are required to be replaced by law, arboreal growth in park is a dicey proposition.
Due to the park’s past use, a thick layer of ash remains below its soil surface, Abramowitz said. Getting a tree to stick is tough, and conditions prevent trees from ever reaching their full size.
“What you won’t see in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is giant heritage trees,” he said.
The feasibility of a stadium is not the question — it can be built, according to David Carlson, who worked for the Parks Department as a landscape architect at FMCP’s own Olmstead Center for 32 years.
“Anything is feasible if you throw enough money at it,” he said.
What would be lost, according to Carlson, is the heritage of the park.
“It’s the historic core of the park that you have to protect,” Carson added.
This, of course, is not the first time a stadium has been mulled within Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Jets explored the possibility of building a football stadium there a decade ago.
“Every couple of years, people have great ideas for the park,” Abramowitz said. “We don’t need their ideas.”