Bloomberg Key To N.Y. MLS Deal, As Parties Seek Accelerated Approval
N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg “may be a lame duck, but he’s still the city’s leading hawk when it comes to stadium and arena construction” as MLS looks to build a soccer stadium in Queens for a new franchise, according to Filip Bondy of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. MLS officials “believe the political deal must be completed” for the stadium while Bloomberg is “still in office.” Sources yesterday confirmed that EPL club Manchester City Owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan is “close to paying" a record $100M for an MLS franchise and financing a $340M stadium in Corona Park. The sources also confirmed that there are “ongoing negotiations” between Mansour and Mets owners “for use of that team’s parking lot.” Mansour’s offer “could come to naught, however, if MLS doesn’t gain approval quickly from the City Council and state legislators.” There is “substantial opposition from Flushing area residents who fear the parkland and neighborhoods will be adversely affected,” as well as “resistance from the borough’s gay community, which wants no part” of Mansour, who hails from the United Arab Emirates, where homosexuality is criminalized. A source said that the project approval process “would normally require another seven months.” But MLS, Bloomberg and Mansour’s group “are projecting a greatly accelerated, optimistic timetable,” in which the “basic stadium plans would gain tentative approval within the next three weeks.” Groundbreaking “would take place within the next 12 months,” and the team “would begin play in 2016.” If the timetable “lags, and if a new mayor takes office before this project is fully approved, MLS remains prepared to change course and head to Orlando for its 20th expansion franchise.” That “appears unlikely, however, considering the stakes” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/30).
POWER BEHIND THE THRONE: SI.com’s Grant Wahl wrote Man City CEO Ferran Soriano is “one of the driving forces behind this deal.” Soriano “used to be in a similar position” as La Liga club FC Barcelona VP during Joan Laporta's presidency. Soriano a few years ago was “involved in Barcelona's push to own an MLS expansion team in Miami with Bolivian investor Marcelo Claure.” That deal “died" in ‘09 after Soriano had left Barcelona, but he has “remained interested in MLS” (SI.com, 4/29).
WORLD-CLASS CITY: In London, Mark Ogden writes Mansour's efforts to land the N.Y.-based franchise in MLS "point towards the true objective of Abu Dhabi’s sporting portfolio," which is "propelling Abu Dhabi's image onto a global scale." The U.S. for that purpose is "where it's at for Sheikh Mansour and his advisors." Mansour is "expected" to be announced "as the owner of New York City FC" on May 25. That move is "unlikely to affect the day-to-day running" of Man City "one iota." There is "absolutely no prospect" of Mansour "withdrawing his backing in favour of an upstart team in the MLS." But it is "not without significance" for Man City, which has not yet attracted a "lucrative deal from the US or the Far East, unlike" EPL club Manchester United, Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and other large clubs including La Liga clubs Real Madrid and FC Barcelona and EPL club Liverpool. A N.Y. franchise "would give Abu Dhabi, and City, a foothold" in the U.S. It also would "increase the prospect of the kind of American investment which enabled" ManU Owner the Glazer family "to turn United into such a financial powerhouse" (London TELEGRAPH, 4/30).