Coney Island MCU Park

Five Points for Bringing Soccer to MCU Park

8:25 PMAleks Vee

by Aleks V | @aleksvee

If you renovate, they will congregate. A simple and obvious answer when it comes to soccer and MCU Park that, for whatever reason, continues to be overlooked.

The idea of a soccer team at the venue, which currently hosts the Brooklyn Cyclones, came up multiple times when the New York Cosmos explored options outside of Hofstra University's Shuart Stadium on Long Island. The club sometimes faced scheduling conflicts with Hofstra, who weren't always cooperative. The lack of convenient transportation to the grounds was an issue as well, and one of the main reasons for declining attendance figures.

MCU Park got a taste of soccer when the New York Cosmos made their Brooklyn debut, defeating the Ottawa Fury 1-0 on May 2, 2015. Attendance was 5,279, larger than the club's average attendance of 4,109 in fall of that year. The Cosmos also played a Championship Semifinal there against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. That game drew 5,061. Not bad for a team that doesn't usually play in Brooklyn.



Yet rumors of a potential move to MCU Park were quickly dispelled. The turf was no good, and neither were the viewing angles. Adjustments for soccer games would be inconvenient for the main tenants, the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team.

Every problem has a solution, and for every skeptical Brooklynite, fan, or businessman, there is a definitive answer. 

Here are five:


1. Cost of renovating stadium < building a new one

Building a new stadium means two, sometimes three things: buying the land on which to build it, possible demolition of anything occupying the land, and construction. 

The cost of building a soccer-specific stadium can range from anywhere between $40 million and $215 million

For reference:

Proposed 25,000-seater for the New York Cosmos at Elmont, NY: $400 million
Cost of building Red Bull arena: about $200 million
Providence Park renovation for MLS standards: $40 million
Cost of transforming a baseball field to a soccer field: up to $200,000
The smiling faces of fans from all five boroughs: Priceless.

2. Infrastructure 



A common complaint among Cosmos fans was accessibility - getting to Hofstra University's Shuart Stadium from South Brooklyn, for instance, would take over two hours and involve at least two modes of transport. Taking both the MTA and LIRR is both time-consuming and expensive. The Cosmos' partnership with Rally was a great idea that could have solved the issue for some, but not all fans.

MCU Park is a convenient location for all five boroughs. It's a 45 to 60 min. train ride from midtown Manhattan. The D, F, N, and Q lines connect Coney Island to four of the five boroughs.

Also available are four buses in Brooklyn and two express buses from Manhattan.

For many fans, MCU Park is a much closer option than Yankee Stadium, which currently hosts Major League Soccer club New York City FC.

Getting there would be no problem for Staten Island fans, as well - 84% of households own at least one car


3. New concert venue drawing more people to the area


Good service. Free tickets. Some of the biggest names in show biz. The Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk, a 5,000-seat covered open-air venue that opened in summer 2016, provides all of the above. Performers have included Sting, Kool and the Gang, the Beach Boys, and Rick Springfield. 

The Beach Boys actually played a concert after two NASL games in the 1980s. Both games drew attendances of over 50,000.

Somewhere in there is an option for cross-promotion.

4. An existing fan base
That's a lot of potential soccer fans. Photo: Charles Kyriazos
The large number of high-rise apartment buildings makes Coney Island as densely populated as a NYC train station during rush hour. There are 24,711 people living in Coney Island itself and nearly 3 million within a ten-mile radius, which would provide part of the regular attendance. The area's beach, boardwalk, rides, and aquarium remain popular destinations for both locals and tourists. About 10 million people visited Coney Island in both 2012 and 2013.

Fans need not fret about seating. The principal architect of MCU Park, Jack Gordon, says the venue, which currently seats 7,000, can be expanded to 16,500. 

That's almost twice the average attendance of Minnesota United, and more than one and a half times the capacity of their former venue, the National Sports Center. (For the uninitiated, Minnesota are MLS bound.) 

MCU Park's current tenants, the Brooklyn Cyclones, also provide an existing fan base to draw from. Their average attendance of 6,234 was the highest in 2015 for the New York-Penn League. A partnership with a pro soccer team would benefit both parties.

5. Previous success of soccer at baseball venues

There's a reason the two sports keep coming up in the same sentence. 

Once upon a time, six baseball franchise owners established soccer teams to try and fill their ballparks during the off-season. The American League of Professional Football, the nation's first professional soccer league, included a New York Giants soccer team. While short-lived, the experiment laid the groundwork for a long-lasting relationship between soccer and baseball.

In 1926, a record crowd of 46,000 at New York's Polo Grounds saw an exhibition game in which an American Soccer League all-New York team won 3-0 against SC Hakoah Wien of Austria.


SC Hakoah Wien in New York, 1926.
Wrigley Field hosted NASL side Chicago Sting in the 1970s and 80's. 

The Kingdome in Seattle, once home to the Seattle Mariners, saw six games with attendance figures of over 40,000.

Fast-forward to 2011 - 70,780 turned up for Guadalajara vs Barcelona at Sun Life Stadium (now the Hard Rock Stadium) in Miami.

In 2013, 40,681 attended Dodger Stadium for a star-studded doubleheader: Juventus vs the Los Angeles Galaxy and Everton vs Real Madrid.

International friendlies in recent years, such as Spain vs Republic of Ireland and Real Madrid vs AC Milan, drew crowds of 40-50,000 at Yankee Stadium. 

In March 2016, 30,315 attended a NYCFC game at Yankee Stadium, a record for MLS teams that week.


If there's one thing Coney Island and US soccer have in common, it's their ability to persevere despite their challenges. Both have had their share of the latter, only to miraculously rise up from the ashes. For Coney Island, it was years of neglect and Hurricane Sandy. For US soccer, the constant flicker of an on and off switch with leagues such as the NASL and WPS. Soccer and Coney Island have both been "erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again".

MLS commissioner Don Garber dismissed the idea of a third team in New York City. But who says that team must play in MLS? 

Despite recent setbacks in the form of multiple club exits, the NASL is very much alive. FC Edmonton head coach Colin Miller just signed a multi-year contract extension. The league has recently welcomed the San Francisco Deltas. As for the USL, it's become an attractive option for MLS clubs' secondary squads. DC United and Orlando City plan to field theirs in the next two years.

Of the many complaints voiced by Cosmos fans, location was prime. MCU Park is accessible, convenient, and affordable for both the club owners and fans. What better place for a new - or returning - professional soccer team in New York City?

“Brooklyn has a great history with soccer,” New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese told Latino Sports. “I played here in college, so I know firsthand the passion and the culture of soccer that exists here..." 

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams would also be in favor of a Brooklyn-based soccer team. He's noted the appeal of the sport to the area's diverse culture, summing up the thoughts of most fans in four words:

"We want them here."

We most certainly do.

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