It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? “Build a stadium.”
Yes, we understand that it’s more than just erecting four grandstands and laying sod. You have to find a site and develop an integrated plan within a bigger community picture, etc. But at some point, we just figure that ideas scratched out on napkins evolve smoothly into architectural renderings and then merge into the hard-hatted construction phase.
We watch on a live construction site webcam until the time for virtual tours and picking our seats and then … voila! “Say, where is the shortest beer line around here?”
Yes, would that it were all so easy-breezy.
Those closest to the facility game in New York know better – and they know a lot better.
A heavy percentage of today’s New York Times story of Major League Soccer’s newest club, the league’s No. 20, is devoted to the quagmire of facility challenges to come. The story is chalk full of the onerous nitty-gritty ahead.
One of the great details, according to the piece from Charles Bagli and Ken Belson, is that Manchester City was willing to foot the bill on its own – hardly a surprise considering the Abu Dhabi owner’s fabulous riches. But …
… Manchester City decided in the last week to team with the Yankees. In doing so, it gained a wealthy local partner well acquainted with building a stadium and navigating New York’s often treacherous political and regulatory shoals. Manchester City’s owners are also hoping that a partnership with the Yankees will shield them from criticism that a stadium project in the park represents a sweetheart deal for Arab royalty, according to team executives.”
And in that paragraph we begin to get a feel for the dense politics involved here. But wait … there’s much more. Because that before we even get to those “regulatory shoals,” the site selection is an absolute muddy swamp of local politics.
Make that a massive “quicksand” pit, seemingly capable of swallowing up whole projects. From the Times story:
To build a home for the team, the city, the league, Manchester City and now the Yankees must win over half a dozen community boards, the city planning commission, the City Council, and potentially state and federal agencies — a process that will take months, if not years. Some of the constituents oppose ceding parkland to a foreign billionaire.”
Some of this is the regular, regional sausage making process – ugly and difficult – not too unlike facility development in any urban area, but military grade strength in the nation’s largest city. They’ve been going through this stuff in New York for more than 50 years, since the vilified Walter O’Malley stole the beloved Dodgers and moved the team west amid dogfights over facilities, land rights, political turf, etc.
But look at that last line in the excerpt! Talk of ceding parkland to a silver spooned, foreign billionaire will put additional monkeys in the wrench.
The story helps explain why big projects in New York, especially sports facilities, will always be wrought with obstructions, especially when it comes to “the use of public resources for wealthy team owners,” as the story says.
New York City FC and MLS officials are talking about use of a temporary facility for a year or so. Anyone beginning to lean toward the “or so,” on that one? And perhaps a frustratingly long “or so” at that?