Bronx, New York – New York City Football Club took one step closer to taking the field today, formally announcing that said field would be Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
The 2015 expansion team are co-owned by the New York Yankees baseball club and Manchester City, the English Premier League soccer team, but with no Manchester representatives on hand at Yankee Stadium, today’s event was strictly a New York Yankee production.
New York FC officials Tim Pernetti, Claudio Reyna and coach Jason Kreis were joined on the dais by Yankee officials Randy Levine and Lonn Trost, as well as recently retired Yankee pitching icon Mariano Rivera, who was announced as the first ever NYC FC season ticket holder.
Yankee President Levine was on hand to lend a little bit of Yankee gravitas, along with a touch of N.Y.C. swagger, while Trost was called on to explain the details of fitting a soccer season around the epically long baseball campaign.
Trost was convincing in his presentation, explaining that it takes three days to convert the baseball diamond into a soccer pitch. Trost added that it could be done in two and a half days, but that three was optimal.
Renderings provided by the team’s showed that the playing surface will be moved away from the third base dugout, thereby clearing the pitchers mound. Trost conceded that the mound would still need to be removed, although the mound will not have to be torn down. New technology allows the pitching surface to be picked up and removed, shaving valuable time off of the process.
Other important notes from Trost included the stadium capacity and the dimensions of what the baseball executive sportingly referred to as the “pitch.” Seats in the upper reaches of the stadium will be covered for most games, Trost explained, reducing the capacity from 49,642 for baseball to, a still large for MLS, 33,444.
Kreis, the Major League Soccer Cup winning coach that NYCFC enticed from Real Salt Lake, pronounced himself satisfied with the dimensions, which at 110 yards by 70 yards, satisfy FIFA regulations. “When I heard it was 70 yards wide,” Kreis shared, “I was very, very happy.”
The ability of the field to withstand the extra wear and tear was a subject of concern for the assembled media, but the Yankees believe that the additional use will not be a problem, with Levine saying that, “The Boss,” the late George Steinbrenner, always wanted the stadium to be seen as a year round venue. Levine also spoke of the Stadium having, “the best grounds crew in the world,” while Trost spoke of “glowlight technology” that allows grass to be grown at night.
When the floor was opened up to questions, Levine brought some of that swagger to bear when he was asked if Major League Baseball had any concerns regarding the playing field, as had been rumored.
“No,” was Levine’s terse response, elaborated on following a brief pause by, “they (MLB) think we know what we’re doing, they know we know what we’re doing.”
No one present was admitting to any predetermined duration, despite earlier reports that the stay would be three years. As Levine put it, “it will last until it doesn’t last.”
Again, there was nothing new on a permanent home, with Tim Pernetti emphasizing once again, “we’re going to build a soccer specific stadium in New York City.”
Both Kreis and Reyna expressed excitement at playing in Yankee Stadium, with New Jersey born Reyna, the team’s Director of Football Operations, saying that, “I hope some of their (the Yankees) winning tradition will rub off on us.”
Standing behind home plate at the Big Ballyard in the Bronx, Reyna spoke about the challenges of creating a positive atmosphere in a non traditional soccer venue.
“We’re going to learn real quick,” Reyna said. “It’s going to be a collective effort of the guys on the ticket side on the soccer side, we’re all in this together.”
“We feel good about it, it is a fantastic venue, Yankee Stadium,” Reyna said. The former U.S. international was at the exhibition games in the summer and praised the atmosphere, while acknowledging the challenge ahead of NYC FC.
“Clearly, some of the seats are a little bit further away,” Reyna admits, “but we hope that putting out a good product on the field, developing our fan base as it’s growing every week, every month, by signing some players that we’ll get that momentum.”
Reyna says, “we’re confident with the momentum and the excitement that we can build around this team that we can have a large attendance at games and, more importantly, a big and committed fan base.”
There remains several challenges ahead for NYC FC, as they try to carve out a spot for themselves in New York’s perpetually crowded sorting landscape. One will be scheduling around the Yankees, which figures to see NYC FC shutout of their home stadium every October.
It is just one more challenge facing Major League Soccer’s 20th franchise, a challenge they will face beginning next March at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.