Despite objections from MLB officials, Yankee Stadium is poised to host New York City FC games beginning next season, as the MLS squad co-owned by the Yankees sets up camp for three years.
New York City FC is owned by the Yankees and Manchester City of the Premier League. It’s the latest attempt to bring professional soccer into the city: the New York Red Bulls play in suburban Harrison (N.J.), while the NASL’s New York Cosmos play in Hampstead and have proposed a Long Island stadium.
New York City FC, an expansion squad, has all the marketing power of the Yankees behind it, but the team and city elected officials have not been able to come up with a site for a new stadium: a proposed Flushing Meadows-Corona Park location near Citi Field was rejected, and there are reports that the team ownership scotched plans for a temporary facility outside the city. The current plan would place a 25,000-seat stadium near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, but given that New York City FC will reportedly play three years at Yankee Stadium, ownership clearly expecta approval for the new stadium will take awhile.
That leaves Yankee Stadium as the logical site for New York City FC. The stadium has hosted large international soccer matches — as well as college football and NHL hockey — in recent years, but this will be the first time Yankee Stadium will be used for MLS regular-season matches. The big issue is the playing field: it’s one thing for a baseball team to play a series on established turf, but it’s another for a soccer team to play on a baseball diamond. In the past, when Yankee Stadium hosted soccer, a temporary sod field was laid on the baseball dirt. Whether that approach can work in the midst of a busy season isn’t clear, but it’s obviously on the minds of MLB and Yankees officials. From The New York Times:
Mark Holtzman, the Yankees’ executive director of nonbaseball events, said the team generally required several days to prepare for events and then several more to repair the playing surface for baseball. But he also noted that since its opening in 2009, the stadium has hosted soccer games as well as a schedule of summer concerts.
“Technology has gotten to the point where I think we can turn it around pretty quickly,” Holtzman said.
“Baseball is clearly the No. 1 priority,” he added. “We wouldn’t do anything to put anyone at any risk; there’s a major investment here in the players. At the end of the day, we look at these opportunities very carefully, and we wouldn’t get into these opportunities unless we were confident in the end result.”