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The wait is finally over. New York City Football Club will soon have a true home.
Mayor Eric Adams formally announced Wednesday morning the city’s agreement with NYCFC to build a professional soccer stadium in the Willets Point neighborhood of Queens.
The announcement ends the club’s decade-long search for a dedicated soccer stadium.
Here is the long road NYCFC and its fans took before this week’s announcement.
During then-MLS commissioner Don Garber’s State of the Union on Nov. 17, 2010, he confirmed the league was interested in expanding to the city. The New York Red Bulls were already an MLS franchise, but they played their home games at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
“We’re very focused on our 20th team in New York,” Garber said. “We are very, very focused on this entire process and hope to be able to get something done for 2013.”
Garber stuck to his word. Three years later, NYCFC was officially named the newest club in MLS on May 21, 2013. The new franchise, which was owned by City Football Group and Yankee Global Enterprises, began searching for players, coaches and staff.
But they also needed a home.
The club confirmed in 2014 that they would play home games at Yankee Stadium, adding that plans for building their own stadium were in progress.
The search got off to a rocky start two years prior. In 2012, the club pursued a plan to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but for a variety of reasons — including the proposed stadium being on parkland — the proposal could not garner enough support to become reality.
NYCFC pivoted and looked at other locations in the five boroughs. The New York Post reported in 2014 that the club was close to agreeing on a deal for a 28,000-seat stadium just south of Yankee Stadium. However, the city soon abandoned the plan due to concerns over scheduling and the size of the stadium.
A site outside of the city was considered, too. The franchise submitted a bid for a new stadium at Belmont Park in Elmont in 2017, amid a season the club was forced to play two regular-season matches away from their Yankee Stadium home — one at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Connecticut, and the other at Citi Field in Queens — due to scheduling issues with the Yankees.
The New York Islanders, who also submitted a bid for the land, eventually won a $1 billion development bid to build a new 18,000-seat hockey arena at the site.
In 2018, NYCFC was linked to a Harlem River Yards development concept that would have built a 26,000-seat soccer-specific venue along the south Bronx waterfront.
At the time, club president Jon Patricof said that he felt NYCFC “[continued] to make good progress” on finding a stadium site, but noted building a stadium at Harlem River Yards — the plan eventually fell through — was not their top priority.
“We submitted something to the state as part of a request for expressions of interest,” Patricof told reporters. “But that’s it. That site is not an active site.”
After more than a half-decade of searching, NYCFC still was without their own stadium.
Earlier this year, a unique situation highlighted NYCFC’s stadium issues.
During the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League (a continental competition for professional soccer teams in North America), the club needed to play a home game in a CONCACAF-approved venue. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field were not CONCACAF-approved, and Red Bull Arena was unavailable because of renovations.
With limited stadium options in the tri-state area, NYCFC played a CONCACAF home game at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles on Feb. 23 — they won 4-0.
The club had their MLS home opener against the LA Galaxy four days later, which prompted the decision to play the CONCACAF match out West, NYCFC CEO Brad Sims said in a statement.
“It is frustrating that this home game will be played on the other side of the country,” Sims said. “However, with our season opener at LA Galaxy only a few days later and our inability to play at Yankee Stadium or one of our alternative home venues, we felt that this arrangement gave our club the best possible chance for two positive results.”
All of that is now in the past.
NYCFC — who won the MLS Cup in 2021 — will get the city’s first professional soccer stadium. It is part of a massive project that also includes 2,500 new affordable housing units, a hotel and retail space.
Construction will begin in 2023 and is expected to finish by 2027, according to the mayor. The stadium will be 100% privately financed.
NYCFC and its fans have been dreaming of a new home for a decade. In approximately five years, that dream will become a reality.