We could potentially see a new Flushing Meadows stadium for MLS’s NYCFC, as Mayor Eric Adams is reportedly set to approve the project at the Citi Field site.
Nothing is final, and we’ve seen plenty of proposed NYCFC stadium plans fail. So while we can confirm there’s plenty of chatter about the proposed stadium, we are a long ways from the project being approved by the city–indeed, the support of the mayor isn’t really essential to the project.
What we have been told by those in the know is that we could see a new 25,000-seat stadium completed in time for the 2025 MLS season and the 2026 World Cup competition, with New York City and New Jersey already awarded games. NYCFC, which is partially owned by the New York Yankees ownership, has been pursing new-stadium projects at various Queens sites (mostly near Yankee Stadium, as well as Harlem River Yards) and Belmont Park (on a site eventually awarded for UBS Arena, home of the New York Islanders). In the meantime, NYCFC has played home matches at a variety of area venues, including Citi Field, Red Bull Arena and Yankee Stadium.
The new stadium would be built on the 61-acre Special Willets Point District, located next to Citi Field and bordered by the the Van Wyck Expressway, 126th Street, Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard. The most likely scenario has a privately financed stadium built on land leased by Sterling Equities and Related Companies. Sterling Equities ownership include Fred and Jeff Wilpon, former New York Mets owners.
The more intriguing possibility–and one that’s been discussed even before the Wilpons sold the Mets to Steve Cohen–is some sort of mixed-use development on the Citi Field/Willets Point acreage. At the time of the Mets bidding in 2020 it was the Alex Rodriguez/Jennifer Lopez group that raised the prospect of some sort of development to unlock hidden value with the team and Citi Field. Cohen must have been paying attention to the competing Mets bids; he’s reportedly seeking approval for a sports book and associated development at Citi Field.
Now, that’s a lot to digest at once, and it’s not a given that NYCFC will receive approval for a new Flushing Meadows stadium, much less permissions for a sportsbook/casino development. History may dictate otherwise. The current Flushing Meadows site of Citi FIeld was once New York City’s famous ash fields, with the city acquiring the 1,216 acres of the Corona Ash Dump and later cleaning up the site for the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. (The ash fields were dubbed by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby as the “valley of ashes.”) The site was later used for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, with development overseen by the legendary Robert Moses. As part of the larger 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair plan, Moses pushed the idea of a municipally owned multiuse stadium, first for the Brooklyn Dodgers (where Walter O’Malley pitched owning and building the venue; when that plan was rejected by Moses, O’Malley pursued a new Los Angeles ballpark) and then a new team, first in the Continental League and then an expansion National League team. Moses’s vision eventually manifested itself in Shea Stadium, eventually replaced by Citi Field.
Now, this being New York City, approval is hardly a given, even if Adams supports the project. The next step would be following the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) mandated by the New York City Council. At some point there will be discussions with the city over a community-benefits plan if any additional development is proposed; that means affordable housing, among other things.
RELATED STORIES: Poll: South Bronx Residents Favor Potential NYCFC Stadium; Bronx Reportedly in the Mix for New NYCFC Stadium; Club President: NYCFC is Still Searching for Stadium Site; Garber: NYCFC Continues to Search New York City for New Stadium; Report: NYCFC Stadium Pitched for Harlem River Yards Development