Early indications are that NYCFC will run into similar roadblocks in the Aqueduct location in Ozone Park. Local politicians have already expressed ambivalence over the idea, which in some cases is likely to evolve into outright opposition, given prior experiences in the city.
And even if the club is given a green light to develop, the site is less than ideal. The Aqueduct Racetrack, in the immediate vicinity of JFK Airport, is an hourlong subway ride from Times Square. In addition, the two A train stations, as is, are likely unable to handle game-day crowds. Such issues compelled the former Metrostars and the NASL New York Cosmos, who both considered the site, to move on to other locations.
A good question to ask at this point is: Why does NYCFC continue to pursue an increasingly wide area of the city when another soccer club has found an audience within 11 miles of Manhattan—in New Jersey?
Indeed, Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., is already both geographically and logistically closer to most of Manhattan than the proposed site. And with the coming opening of a $256 million PATH station in Harrison, the trip across the Hudson will likely get even faster than the one to Ozone Park.
"It's not entirely clear that the Giants' and Jets' brands have been injured by the fact that they haven't played in New York since the 1970s," said sports economist Victor Matheson of the College of the Holy Cross, adding, "The Yankees don't play in the middle of Manhattan, either."
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The experience of other professional soccer teams across the U.S. suggests that a stadium beyond a city center is no death knell for a club. Philadelphia Union's PPL Park (20 miles from the city's center) and Sporting Kansas City's Sporting Park (16 miles from downtown Kansas City), which both opened in 2010, are regularly full in spite of their suburban locations.
Nevertheless, "it seems highly unlikely that they'll cross the Hudson River like the Red Bulls did," Sauer said.
Its recent experiences in Philadelphia and Kansas City notwithstanding, the MLS has generally pressed expansion clubs to more heavily consider downtown sites. A Miami club, whose rights were purchased by former Los Angeles Galaxy star David Beckham, will not begin play unless the league finds a suitable location.
"NYCFC is looking at sites all over New York City," said Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for NYCFC. "We are working with the de Blasio administration to find a world-class site for a soccer-specific stadium."