Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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NYCFC stadium project passes city commission; club unveils ‘The Cube’ entrance

NYCFC’s long-running quest to build a stadium in the five boroughs has taken another step forward, with a distinctive design element unveiled.

On Wednesday, the New York City Planning Commission voted in favor of the stadium in a binding and unanimous vote. The plan will now head to the New York City Council, which will hold a public hearing and then a vote. If that passes and the mayor approves, there’s an appeal process. NYCFC’s plan is expected to pass all these hurdles unscathed. Once it does, the club will “be ready with shovels” to get construction underway.

“We’ve been working parallel paths the last 12-18 months,” NYCFC CEO Brad Sims told The Athletic. “The political process is one, the design process is the second and the third is actually clearing the site, remediating the land. … We’ll be ready by late summer,” Sims said. “All three of those processes are moving in tandem, moving very positively.”

To celebrate the landmark, Sims and NYCFC shared updated rendings of the primary entrance to the planned stadium, which is set to be built in Willets Point, Queens adjacent to Citi Field, home of MLB’s New York Mets, and nearby the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open.

Coming from public transportation, fans will encounter what the club is calling “The Cube” — A seven-story tall, LED-lined entrance to the club’s new stadium.

Rendering of the “The Cube” entrance (courtesy NYCFC)

“You go through the whole process and you think how are we going to differentiate ourselves?” Sims said. “Not just amongst soccer-specific stadiums in North America, but also differentiate ourselves against the New York area’s other sports venues. … I think our grand entrance through the cube is going to be very different from any other kind of sense of arrival, of welcoming to a sports event that any of our fans have ever seen.”

The entrance will feature 11,000 square feet of LED lighting in the cube, capable of projecting video, photographs and graphic elements.

In all, the stadium project is expected to run $780 million (all privately financed) with a planned capacity of 25,000 people. That capacity would tie NYCFC’s stadium for seventh-largest among soccer-specific stadiums in MLS, alongside Hudson River rivals New York Red Bulls.

Sims say the next-door neighbor Mets have been “good partners” with regular dialogue, as the two teams work together on parking plans, game day operations, scheduling, and ways to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.

“When you’re at our stadium, you’re going to know you’re in New York City,” Sims said. “Whether you’re sitting near the pitch and looking up and out, or whether you’re on the concourse or wherever you are in the stadium, you’re going to know that you’re in New York City.”

The stadium will be located near stops for the NYC subway, Long Island Rail Road and several bus lines (courtesy NYCFC)

Sims likens the feel of the Willets Point location to that of Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs), Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox), Craven Cottage (Fulham FC) and Selhurst Park (Crystal Palace) — Stadiums on both sides of the Atlantic that fit within a neighborhood vibe. The club is also particularly happy about the location’s accessibility by public transportation, especially the ease of travel from Long Island.

The area where the stadium and surrounding development will be built is currently largely empty lots, having previously been home to a number of auto repair and parts shops. The area on the other side of Citi Field is mostly a parking lot, though Mets owner Steve Cohen has proposed a plan to redevelop much of the area into parkland, restaurants and community space.

Within the planning process, the club has spoken with other MLS teams that have recently built stadiums. They want to know what worked, what they’d do differently and everything in between. In NYCFC’s first trip to St. Louis last weekend, Sims was treated to a three hour tour of their new stadium.

“I think our fans are going to love it,” Sims said confidently.

NYCFC was initially announced as an MLS expansion club in 2013 and debuted in the 2015 season, with the idea that the team would find a deal to build its own soccer-specific stadium in New York City. The plan was for the club to play at Yankee Stadium until that happened. It has taken longer than expected to get a deal for land and begin planning for the stadium and the club has had a more nomadic “home” experience in recent seasons. In just the 2022 season alone, NYCFC played “home” matches at five venues: Yankee Stadium (the team’s primary location, home of the New York Yankees), Red Bull Arena (home of rival New York Red Bulls), Citi Field, Belson Stadium (home of St. John’s University) and even BMO Stadium (home of LAFC).

NYCFC still plans to debut at their new stadium in 2027.

(Top photo courtesy NYCFC)

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