SBD/January 17, 2013/Facilities

Cosmos' Proposed Belmont Park Stadium Could Compete With MLS' Flushing Meadows Plans

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Last week's proposal includes a 25,000 seat stadium that could be expanded
The NASL N.Y. Cosmos hope to “build a stadium near Belmont Park Race Track in Nassau County, just over the border with New York City,” and the facility would “be part of a new shopping and entertainment district,” according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. The $400M “privately financed project, which was lauded by local politicians eager to attract jobs and tax revenue, would include a 25,000-seat soccer stadium (that could be expanded), 9 restaurants, shops, a 175-room hotel and a 4.3-acre park.” The stadium would be “designed by Populous.” The proposal was “submitted last week to the Empire State Development Corporation, which is expected to take several months to pick a winning bid.” If the Cosmos are chosen, they “could end up competing with Major League Soccer, which has been pushing for the construction of a similarly sized stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park just 10 miles away.” MLS has been “trying to sell the rights to a 20th team that would be located in New York City,” and the Cosmos have “long been viewed as a natural fit.” But the league is “still seeking a buyer willing to pay the substantial franchise fee to enter the league.” N.Y. Cosmos Chair Seamus O’Brien has said that the team wants to “play soccer at the highest level, wherever that may be, but first the team must be re-established in New York” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/17). The AP’s Frank Eltman noted a new soccer stadium “could be an economic boon for struggling Nassau County following last year's announcement” that the Islanders were relocating to Brooklyn in ‘15. O'Brien called Belmont ''an ideal location and a win-win for everyone involved” (AP, 1/16).

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: In N.Y., Filip Bondy noted the Cosmos came to believe that the Flushing Meadows location was “rife with too many political and geographic obstacles, and that Belmont Park could be more easily transformed into an entertainment complex.” If MLS is “unable to build a stadium in Queens, and if the Cosmos draw large crowds for their own NASL games and for international matches at Belmont, the franchise likely would become an attractive expansion option for MLS commissioner Don Garber” (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 1/16). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Laura Kusisto writes the Cosmos’ proposal “could complicate” MLS’ plan to build a stadium in Queens. Sources said that the team will “compete with at least one other proposal made by Related Cos. to build a shopping center and recreational space.” But the Cosmos' proposal “seems to be gaining early political momentum.” Still, MLS is “seeking as much as $100 million in expansion fees,” Cosmos investors have “never publicly stated a willingness to foot the bill for both a nine-figure expansion fee and for construction of a stadium.” O'Brien said, "This city is big enough to deal with three soccer teams. In London, they've got seven or eight. I say bring it on" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/17).

WEIGHING IN: GOAL.com’s Alex Labidou wonders if it is “a bit overambitious to invest that much into a club that isn't guaranteed entry into MLS?” While O'Brien “hints that the Cosmos would like to play in MLS, he believes that the club and its top-class facilities will attract fans regardless of which league it plays in.” He also added that the NASL “has ambitious owners, which will likely see the league improve” (GOAL.com, 1/17). O’Brien said, "I made it clear from the start: We'll look to build our own home. We'd evaluated a number of sites within greater New York City. ... It's a state tender, so we're responding to an RFP, not trying to stick the stadium somewhere else. It's in a neighborhood that's effectively zoned as a sports facility with great transportation linkage, road and rail straight in, and a huge car parking (area)." SI.com’s Grant Wahl wrote the Cosmos are “increasingly looking like a competitor and not a prospective member of MLS.” But O’Brien said, "I'm not going to comment on what MLS want to do. All I know is (a stadium plan) would make us a more compliant owner than we may or may not be now. We have a soccer-specific stadium. So surely they'd have to be delighted, wouldn't they?" O’Brien said that the Cosmos' proposed stadium would be “entirely privately funded.” O’Brien: "From the ownership. We've got the resources to fund this stuff. That's the first bridge we had to cross. That wasn't an issue. We've called a fantastic team of architects, engineers and master planners in a short period of time." He added, "The idea would be playing there in the 2016 season" (SI.com, 1/16).
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