MLS Unveils FMCP Stadium Proposal
By MEGAN MONTALVO
| An artist’s rendering of what the proposed Major League Stadium will look like at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Amidst a series of town hall meetings, debates and public scrutiny, one Flushing Meadow Corona Park plan is slowly inching its way towards its goal.
On Oct. 5, Major League Soccer announced that it could strike a deal with the City for a 35,000-seat stadium as soon as next month.
“We chose Flushing Meadows Corona Park because it’s the world’s park. This is a project we have been dreaming about since the league was founded,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “Queens is the world’s borough and soccer is the world’s game.”
According to Garber, the proposed development would take up 10 to 13 acres of land on what is now known as the closed-off Fountains of Planets, with the exclusion of one acre of adjacent grass land, and is expected to generate up to 2,300 construction jobs.
Priced at $300 million, the soccer stadium is projected to be the most expensive in North America. Current plans call for a 25,000-seat stadium, but the league hopes to receive approval for a larger one with an eye to expand in the future.
Once completed, officials expect to generate 160 full-time positions as well as 750 part-time jobs, which MLS said will primarily go to local unions and residents.
“Our goal is to raise a sense of pride in the community,” Garber said. “We looked at a lot of sites and we believe that Queens and Flushing Meadows Corona Park was right for us.”
While Garber attests to maintaining a vision that would benefit the Borough, many community leaders are calling the development proposal a “land grab.”
Last week, more than 300 residents attended a town hall meeting in Jackson Heights to protest the string of recent proposals made for FMCP land, including the MLS stadium, Willets Point shopping mall and United States Tennis Association expansion.
Organized by the Fairness Coalition of Queens, a group of nonprofit religious and community organizations, the meeting attracted local soccer leagues who clarified in countless testimonies and protest signs that they “want to play soccer, not watch soccer.”
In conjunction with the town hall meeting, the coalition also launched an online petition at change.org to ask Mayor Mike Bloomberg to take their comments into consideration before green lighting the plans.
“Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is threatened by corporate interests who want this valuable public asset for their own private gain at the expense of the largely working class, immigrant population of Queens,” the letter stated. “We ask that all new uses or proposed redesigns in the area of Flushing Meadows Corona Park are undertaken in a fair and responsible manner to include a process for local resident and community stake holder input.”
Though the petition has more than 500 signatures, MLS officials remain positive that the proposed stadium is in the best interest for the public as it aims to attract tourism, boost the local economy and redevelop an unsightly are of park land.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation out there,” Garber said. “I can look back and remember when I went to the 1964 World’s Fair at the park, but unfortunately, that is no longer what it looks like today. We’re going to make it better.”
In addition to the stadium construction, MLS plans to improve the turf on all existing soccer fields and implement new volleyball courts.
Dispelling past town hall rumors that parking lots will also be included in the deal, Garber confirmed that “not one blade of grass will be used for parking.”
Garber said the league hopes to use the parking lot at Citi Field along with spots under the Van Wyck Expressway overpass.
To avoid scheduling conflicts with Mets games and the US Open, the league would work with Major League Baseball and the USTA.
Though MLS is still shopping for an owner for both the new team and the new stadium, the design team behind the Brooklyn Barclays Center - SHoP Architects - has already signed on for the initial phases of construction.
But, before moving forward with plans, Garber said MLS will need to find an acre of green park land to replace the one that it plans to use for the development.
Officials are currently eyeing a site at Flushing River and an abandoned rail line in Rego Park, among other sites.
If passed by the City, MLS hopes to break ground by 2014 with opening date as early as 2016.
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or mmontalvo@ queenstribune.com