New York City’s decision to approve a privately-funded $780 million stadium for the city’s only Major League Soccer team, New York City FC (NYCFC), has left many of the team’s diehard fans unhappy about what they consider the remote location of the new 25,000-seat venue in Willets Point, Queens.
The team has played most of its last seven seasons at Yankee Stadium, occasionally rotating to the Mets’ home of Citi Field or Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
While plenty of fans deride the team’s current home field, a slightly squashed rectangle across the outfield of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx with lousy sightlines, NYCFC supporters from Westchester and New Jersey say they’ve received an unfavorable side of the deal.
“Coming from Eastern New Jersey, I can get to Yankee Stadium in sometimes as low as 20 minutes, but getting to Queens is not only a longer trip but typically more expensive unless I burn an extra 30 minutes trying to go over the Queensboro Bridge,” said NYCFC supporter Scott Churchson.
Another fan, George from Yonkers, said, “With the airport and traffic, I probably won’t come out here as much.”
The development plan, built by union labor, will include New York’s largest public housing complex in over 40 years, with an estimated 2,500 housing units, over 40,000 square feet of open space and a 650-seat school.
The new stadium aims to counteract traffic struggles with its ease of access to public transport. Mets-Willets Point offers services from the 7 Subway line, the Long Island Railroad and the Q48 bus.
With the stadium at the heart of a busy transit hub, one fan worries about the busy crowds flocking to the area.
“I mean, it’s a good thing the stadium and housing… but, my concern just looking at it now is safety near the stadium,” said Jackson, another local NYCFC supporter.
Safety is not the only concern fans have for the new stadium. The plans to erect a new community in Willets Point have Tran, an NYCFC Supporter, worried about the potential impact on neighboring areas, including Flushing, the heart of a low-income neighborhood composed mainly of Chinese immigrants.
“There always are concerns for gentrification, especially when being so close to Flushing, which has a huge Asian population… I think it’s a matter of, like… what are you doing for the neighborhoods surrounding that area as well,” she said.
According to the Mayor’s Office, the stadium is expected to generate upwards of $6.1 billion in revenue over the next 30 years, creating 1,500 permanent jobs and 14,000 construction jobs.
Fans say they know the team needs its own venue. “We are a laughing stock…I’m a diehard NYCFC fan, but you know, sometimes you have to agree with what other people are saying… I think we should move from baseball stadiums,” said Joel, an NYCFC fan and Queens Native.
“Our club has been investing in New York City for over a decade, and we are eager to invest these funds to help build a new community for our first team, our dedicated fans and our great city,” said NYCFC Vice Chairman Marty Edelman.
The new stadium represents a more significant commitment from the city to aid in developing a New York that currently faces a housing and labor crisis. Affordable housing and the implementation of new lively communities are all part of Mayor Eric Adam’s commitment to making NYC a “city of yes.”
“Willets Point exemplifies the city’s bold vision for placemaking development, anchored by deeply affordable housing,” said New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr.
This project comes as MLS fan viewership is at an all-time high in the United States, with international superstar Lionel Messi joining Florida-based club Inter Miami. Apple recently purchased the streaming rights to the MLS in a $2.5 billion, 10-year deal. These advancements in league development coincide with the United States co-hosting of the World Cup in 2026. New York will get the chance to promote the sport citywide as MetLife Stadium is slated to host group-stage matches and potentially the final, with only itself and Dallas’ AT&T Stadium still in the running.
While NYCFC’s new stadium isn’t planned to be completed before the start of the World Cup, it can undoubtedly piggyback off the hype created by the hundreds of thousands of fans flocking to the city the previous summer.
NYCFC last won a championship in 2021, when they defeated the Portland Timbers in a thrilling penalty shootout, with star keeper Sean Johnson saving two penalties. Johnson has since moved on from the team, with stars Santiago Rodriguez and Gabriel Pereira now at the forefront. The club sits on 38 points, smack dab in the middle of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race, ahead of the pack by one point despite injury struggles.
With the impending World Cup and other international stars being encouraged to move out west, NYCFC fans hope a dedicated soccer stadium will increase the former MLS champion’s credibility.
Patrick, a Connecticut native, said, “It will be the first soccer stadium in New York City, which will be huge for the sport and huge for the city… hopefully it brings in, you know, superstars from around the world, and we can compete with Inter Miami.”