|New York loves futbol. Photo: Aleks V Arts|
Where does one find a chunk of land in New York City large enough to build a soccer stadium on? The owners of New York City Football Club are asking the same question. As the twentieth addition to Major League Soccer, NYCFC has tremendous commercial potential. Imagine an MLS team in the largest American city, where the number of soccer fans skyrocketed after Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup and continues to grow as more TV channels broadcast soccer games.
Speculation on NYCFC's future home has left fans across the city divided in support of their boroughs. No matter what other locations are introduced, however, Yankee Stadium is the best option to host NYCFC.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. voiced his support for bringing soccer to his borough. Ironically, he backed the building of a new arena while pointing to the success of soccer games at Yankee Stadium. Why waste millions when the solution is staring you right in the face?
The attendance for baseball at Yankee Stadium was dramatically low this past spring, averaging below 40,000 fans per game. Ticket sales are the primary source of revenue for the Yankees, bringing in almost twice the amount of money as the sales of broadcasting rights. NYCFC would rectify the Yankees’ revenue woes. No one would have to resort to lowering ticket prices either!
For now, Yankee Stadium is only being considered as a temporary home for the team. Yet there are many advantages of keeping soccer there that are being overlooked.
Yankee Stadium is incredibly accessible. Numerous subway lines can transport the average New Yorker to the arena from anywhere in the city, thanks to the many transfers available along the way at stations like Atlantic Avenue.
|Fans gather for a Soccer Series game. Photo: Aleks V Arts|
The success of the Soccer Series games at Yankee Stadium underscores the point further. Each game pitted Europe's biggest teams, like Real Madrid and AC Milan, against each other. With 40-45,000 fans attending each game, the stadium picked up enormous revenue not just from ticket sales, but also from the sales of food, drinks and team merchandise. If soccer games that are held only twice a year at the arena can sell out, why shouldn’t a team play here year round? Skeptics may point to the fact that Real Madrid and AC Milan are world-famous teams with ready-made fan bases. They're forgetting that NYCFC's majority owners are Manchester City, one of the biggest (and wealthiest) franchises in soccer. Besides, as a new team, NYCFC will need to be advertised and build a following no matter where it’s playing.
What’s more, old-time soccer enthusiasts will be swept off their feet with nostalgia, recalling the days that Yankee Stadium hosted the New York Cosmos in the 1970's. There's nothing more marketable than a blast from the city's past.
Still, the folks behind NYCFC seem more interested in building an all-new, soccer-specific arena in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. The park already holds Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, as well as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which hosts the US Open tennis tournament. Avid soccer fans in Queens were thrilled at the possibility of no longer having to travel to New Jersey to watch New York's only MLS team, the Red Bulls, and to have a local team of their own, but what about the rest of us? It's easy to drive there, but not everyone owns a car.
Besides, baseball and tennis enthusiasts attending games in Corona Park are unlikely to jump on the MLS bandwagon. Spending time and money into coaxing fans of other sports to “convert” to soccer is almost as laughable as trying to get Miley Cyrus fans to attend Metallica shows.
Both the past and present of Yankee Stadium, as well as the current popularity of soccer in the city show that fans will hand over their cash as soon as they get the chance. So NYCFC owners, quit stalling. Time is of the essence. Get out your thinking caps - preferably those with the Yankees logo - and show us all that two sports can benefit by pursuing a common goal: the happiness of the investors and the fans.