NYCFC fans describe life as a stadium nomad


On April 28, Inter Miami got stadium approval for their Miami Freedom Park Project. While co-owner David Beckham toasted the news on Instagram, not everyone in the northeast may have shared his enthusiasm at the time.

That stadium deal was done roughly four-and-a-half years after Miami’s franchise launched in 2018. More than nine years after its founding, New York City FC has no such agreement in place. Though the two cities are hardly comparable from a real estate perspective – and most NYCFC fans The Post heard from aren’t fussed with the developments in Miami – the news was nonetheless an ugly reminder of the wait New York City fans have had to endure.

“That’s a bit disheartening to see,” Sam Clerrosier, an NYCFC fan living in Brooklyn, said of newer franchises like Miami and Nashville getting stadiums. “It seems like those front offices are doing the right things or they have the right things in place – and we don’t. It makes you wonder, like, what are we doing wrong?”

The club has tried to get a stadium deal done, yet “jurisdictional requirements, zoning and regulatory hurdles,” as an expert previously told The Wall Street Journal, make the process of building in New York more difficult than other cities. A deal for a South Bronx site near Yankee Stadium reportedly fell through last June late in the process.

“NYCFC, along with our partner, The New York Yankees, negotiated in good faith with the previous administration, and in June of last year, that administration chose not to fulfill its commitments which were central to the project,” a club spokesperson told The Post. “We are grateful that Mayor Adams, his staff, and his administration are energetically engaging with us to find the right site.”

There’s also optimism coming from the Yankees side (their owners, Yankee Global Enterprises, own a 20% stake of NYCFC) that the Adams administration can help get a deal over the line.

“Unlike Mayor de Blasio, who really never lifted a finger to help this project, Mayor Adams has been very strong and very supportive in trying to find a home for a new NYCFC stadium,” Yankees president Randy Levine told The Post. “Because he understands the scope and size of the private investment and jobs it will bring.”

For its part, the de Blasio administration explained its trepidation with the project back in 2013 (when Mayor Bloomberg was finishing his time in office), as spokeswoman Lis Smith of the then mayor-elect told The New York Times, “We have real concerns about investing scarce public resources and forgoing revenue to support the creation of an arena for a team co-owned by one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, and will review any plan with that in mind.” The Times reported that NYCFC wanted the city to “issue $250 million to $300 million in tax-exempt bonds” for a potential South Bronx project that would’ve entailed public funding and saved the club “millions of dollars in federal and state taxes over 38 years.”

More recent reporting, however, has said the project would be privately financed, and NYCFC president and CEO Brad Sims told The Athletic last year “we’re not asking for any public money.” 

Regardless, the team remains without a stadium of its own. Fans described it as a gut-punch after seeing their club lift the MLS Cup a mere months ago.

“You got the reigning champion New York City team that’s like Homeless FC,” another fan, Doug Condon, told The Post. “If the team’s having this much on-the-field success and bringing positive light to the city and to the MLS, and you still can’t get anything, then what else do you have to do?”

In the wake of the Miami deal, The Post asked NYCFC fans for their feedback on the current state of the club’s stadium search, and interviewed six (including Clerossier and Condon) over the phone.

This is a peek into life as a stadium nomad.

Despite a near-decade long wait (and counting) for a stadium at this point, New York City fans won’t just accept one anywhere. From the feedback fans gave The Post, it’s clear that having something built within the five boroughs is paramount to most of the supporter base. 

The club has been branded as a New York City team from the very beginning, and the prospect of a future stadium within those confines was part of the allure for “founding members” – season ticket holders from the club’s first season.

“We are New York City football club and we should have something here, “ said Richard Vallejos, an NYCFC fan from Queens. “I understand the spacing issue, but if it comes down to the money I don’t really agree with that – or I don’t think that’s a good excuse because New York City [FC] is owned by a member of the ruling family in Abu Dhabi, like oil conglomerates. They knew what they were getting themselves into. We should have something on paper by now.”

The club has managed to develop and attract top talent despite its ongoing search for a stadium.
Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images

(City Football Group, which is majority-owned by by Sheikh Mansour, a member of the royal family from the United Arab Emirates, holds an 80 percent stake in NYCFC).

Others find the stadium situation a bit more amusing. But even the barbs of rival fans underscore the significance of an in-city stadium to the NYCFC project.

“I think their stadium situation is absolutely hilarious,” Red Bulls fan David Moreira messaged to The Post. “However, I do hope they get one in Westchester or Long Island. The identity crisis would be equally enjoyable for me.”

The team’s current nomad state has made for an often-inconvenient “home schedule” this season, further frustrating the fan base. Between Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, Red Bull Arena, Belson Stadium and even Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, the club has hosted matches at six different venues across three competitions this season.

Condon, who is from Queens, doesn’t drive and relies on public transportation to get to games (he doesn’t make the trip to Jersey when NYCFC play at Red Bull Arena). Another fan from Queens, Nick Manzione, lamented the difficulty of following the team to so many different home venues. He also suggested the scheduling inconsistencies diminish the value of a season ticket, and he wasn’t the only one.

While that problem won’t be solved in the short term, NYCFC fans still have hopes for a future stadium.

Despite the previous near-deal for a site in the South Bronx, (which is now essentially dead), there is growing enthusiasm among fans for a Queens stadium. A stadium at Willets Point near Citi Field has been said to be a possibility. Of the six fans who talked to The Post on the phone, four said they’d prefer a Queens site (not to mention some others via Twitter) over a home in The Bronx, where New York City has played the majority of its games since its inaugural season in 2015 (10 of the 17 league home matches this season were scheduled for Yankee Stadium.)

NYCFC city hall MLS Cup
NYCFC celebrated their first-ever MLS Cup last December.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Aside from the travel convenience of a potential Willets Point site, some fans said they believe the surrounding community there gives it the edge over The Bronx. Both Condon and another fan, David Oliva, think Queens – with its vibrant Colombian population – would warm to a soccer team. Thus far in 2022, five Yankee Stadium games have seen a slightly higher average attendance (17,516) than three at Citi Field (17,160), though Citi Field takes the lead if you remove the league home opener on March 12 in The Bronx.

Regardless of the borough, NYCFC fans are united in their desire for a stadium within city limits. They’ve waited this long already, and would wait longer yet for a soccer-specific site close to home.

“Obviously I want a stadium, but I really want it built right,” fan Jacob Simpson said. “I really don’t mind being a nomad club if it means I’m not gonna have to [eventually] go out to Belmont… location to me is really important.”

It’s not just the convenient travel to Queens that makes a permanent move away from The Bronx appealing to some fans. A number of supporters made it clear they primarily blame the Yankees for the current stadium situation, and feel that the iconic organization has not helped enough in NYCFC’s stadium hunt. The New York City Economic Development Commission has also cast blame on the Yankees for the breakdown of the South Bronx site deal last year, as The Athletic reported.

As The Post’s Charles Gasparino wrote in July, a Bronx community board was set for a vote last June that would’ve advanced the stadium plan (as well as affordable housing, a new school and more) if approved. But when the Yankees and developer Maddd Equities requested last-minute changes to the lease terms over certain parking terms, The Outfield reported, the vote did not happen. A person close to the stadium project, however, told The Post that it was the de Blasio administration and Bronx parking bondholders who reneged on the initial agreement. That agreement would’ve guaranteed the Yankees keeping a certain (reduced) amount of parking spaces with the construction of a future stadium completed on part of the land the team uses for parking.

NYCFC Citi Field
NYCFC has played at Citi Field before, and some fans would like to see a move to Queens become permanent.
Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Manzione was one of three interviewees who specifically blamed the Yankees for the current situation, and the relationship with the iconic organization has soured for some NYCFC fans.

“I really look at the infrastructure that the Yankees provide the team currently, and I feel like [NYCFC] would be one thousand percent better [off] taking their time and money to Citi Field and seeing if Steve Cohen would take over the team,” he opined.

The earlier source close to the stadium project emphasized that the Yankees did not spearhead negotiations for The Bronx site, but merely assisted NYCFC. But it’s not just the stadium hunt that has some fans agitated with The Bronx Bombers. Manzione also pointed out that NYCFC games aren’t available to watch on YES when the Yankees are playing — relegating the team to the YES streaming app, for now — and the rather small championship “banner” at Yankee Stadium was also mentioned as a source of embarrassment.

Yet not everyone is pointing their fingers so firmly. The fan base seems to have a sense of how hard it is to build in NYC and a lot of respondents The Post heard from are more mad at the situation than NYCFC itself.

Still, there’s a desire for more transparency from fans.

“I don’t think the communication from the club to the fans is good,” said Oliva. “It definitely seems like the club just wants to keep it all to themselves, and to a certain extent I kind of understand that. But at the same time you gotta let your fans know what’s the situation here.”

Clerossier put it just as bluntly.

“We’re not asking you to give us the details on litigation, like actual paperwork,” he said. “I know they’re trying to be discreet about it, but just give us the head’s up from the horse’s mouth.”

Sims has said the club is aiming for a stadium to be up and running by 2026 – in time for the US, Mexico and Canada-hosted World Cup.

There was more pessimism than optimism regarding that timeline from the six Post interviewees. Sims told The Athletic that ground would have to be broken by the third quarter of 2023 for that plan to come to fruition.

“If they’re really hoping to do it next year, I just don’t see that happening,” Simpson said. “I’d love to be wrong. But I don’t.”

Whether or not a stadium comes to the five boroughs will shape future decisions from fans, and possibly the organization too.

Manzione, a “founding member” of the club, will be dropping his season ticket after this season, and feels the lack of a permanent home “devalues” his ticket.

Vallejos is on the other side of the coin.

“If they had a stadium, I would sign up to be a season ticket holder no questions asked, next day,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for that moment for a while.” 

While he hopes and waits for that moment, he also fears a complete relocation is possible the longer the stadium process drags on. Clerrosier and Oliva expressed the same worries.

For now, New York City are the defending champs, and play some of the most attractive soccer in the league. But their on-field form can only satiate fans for so long.

“It’s cute to get the keys to the city,” Condon said, “but just give us the keys to a stadium.”

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