NYCFC stadium deal for South Bronx in limbo

Could Soccer be Coming to the South Bronx
The map of a proposed NYCFC soccer stadium near Yankee Stadium.
Photo courtesy Maddd Equities

In 2020 published reports surfaced that a Major League Soccer stadium could be coming to the South Bronx, but a project eight years in the making is now on the verge of falling apart.

Plans to construct a privately financed, 25,000-seat stadium in the South Bronx for the NYCFC soccer team as part of a development project costing more than $1 billion have been halted over the Yankees request for additional parking spots. But the parking, located near Yankee Stadium, are leased by bondholders who have final say over the spots.

An NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) spokesperson said the city is disappointed the deal is on hold, telling the Bronx Times that the city only learned the Yankees were walking away from it through media reports. According to Williams, the Yankees tried to change the terms of the deal by asking for 5,500 parking spots just days before the plan was to be presented to Community Board 4, catching the city off guard.

“We have been and remain committed to all parties to reach a resolution that benefits the community and the city,” the spokesperson said. “The underutilized parking lots around Yankee Stadium can be so much more than they are today, and the South Bronx deserves a plan to build a healthier and stronger community.”

NYCFC, which currently plays its home games at Yankee Stadium and is partially owned by the Bronx Bombers, has been looking for a home of its own since before joining MLS in 2015. In late 2017, NYCFC also lost out to the New York Islanders on a bid for a new stadium at the site of Belmont Park in Queens; the Islanders will begin play at UBS Arena on Nov. 20.

The plan for the site in the South Bronx had NYCFC working with the EDC and project developer Maddd Equities to demolish the 153rd Street Garage, next to the old Yankee Stadium and parts of an elevator factory to build the stadium, affordable housing units, a school, hotel and retail stores.

While the Yankees would lose this parking, they would keep Garage 3 and the lots on River Avenue and the Harlem River. Those places only allot to 5,182 parking spots, not the 5,500 spaces the Yankees want. But if the bondholders granted these additional spots to the team, valet parking would then be needed, an added expense on parking lots that are already underutilized and losing money.

Yankees Vice President Randy Levine said he’s not pleased with the recent turn of events.

“We had eight years of meetings with the de Blasio administration,” he said. “I feel very disappointed that this project is not going to move forward because the city, EDC and bondholders reneged on their words.”

Levine told the Bronx Times that he and his colleagues were under the impression the new stadium was going to happen and everyone is shocked at what has transpired. While Levine thinks the deal is dead, the city is still willing to come to the table and work things out.

As part of the new Yankee Stadium redevelopment in 2006, the city was obligated to provide 9,127 parking spots for home games. The lots and garages are located on city-owned land on a 99-year lease with Bronx Parking Lot Development Corporation that expires in 2106.

In 2007, a bondholder issued $237 million to renovate the garages, but since then they have been underutilized and generated minimal revenue.

Typically, there are only 3,500 spots used for Yankee games and in 2018 the average occupancy of the lots was just 36%. The city attributes this to Metro-North’s East 153rd Street Station, which opened in 2009, and ride-sharing services.

A few years ago, Yankees and Maddd Equities came to the EDC with a proposal to address the issues of excess parking and to resolve the bond default for the underutilized parking lots and garages around Yankee Stadium, according to sources.

Since then, the city and EDC have worked with the parties to find a resolution to these issues and to identify potential futures uses for the underutilized parking facilities in partnership with the community.

But according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, if the Yankees had dropped their demand for 5,500 parking spots, then the project would have moved forward. The source also said that the Yankees feel the city made a commitment to them for a certain number of spaces, but that is far from the truth.

“We encourage the parties to resolve their differences so we can get a deal back on track,” the source added.

Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bxtimes and Facebook @bxtimes.