MLS Paid Visit to Rego Park Site in Search for Stadium Parkland Swap
QUEENS — With a deal on a Flushing Meadows soccer stadium nearing completion, Major League Soccer officials visited an abandoned Rego Park site earlier this month to scope it out as a potential replacement park space, MLS and those present at the tour confirmed.
An MLS group, accompanied by city officials, visited a vacant 16-acre parcel of land next to the Forest Hills Little League in early November, according to Larry Berkowitz, director of the little league.
MLS confirmed that they looked at the city-owned site, which partially houses abandoned Long Island Railroad tracks, along with other sites. The Rego Park site is one of several being considered by MLS, which must replace the land it hopes to use in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the stadium.
"We are looking at a wide variety of sites, and this is just one of them," MLS spokeswoman Risa Heller confirmed to DNAinfo.com New York via email. "We are working to gather an extensive list of potential replacement options and get the community's input on which ones would be most valuable to them."
MLS is looking to build a 25,000-seat stadium on top of Industry Pond, which is located at the eastern end of the park.
MLS commissioner Don Garber, speaking to reporters during Monday's state-of-the-league conference call, said the league was close to reaching an agreement with the city over the use of approximately 10 acres of parkland.
Although Garber declined to estimate when a deal would be reached, he reiterated that league is still on track to open the stadium by 2016.
"I do believe we will resolve that shortly," Garber said. "I can't put any timetable on that, but we are at the finish line."
Garber said that the league would replace any land used "acre-for-acre."
Berkowitz said the MLS officials expressed pessimism about the Rego Park site during their tour because it is 3 miles from the proposed Flushing stadium.
"One of the comments they made was that this was quite a distance from Flushing Meadow Park," said Berkowitz, who contacted MLS early in the process. "So we got the feeling that this might not be beneficial."
Berkowitz added that the league also mentioned an MTA-owned lot near the Van Wyck Expressway and Flushing Bay as another possible site. That site has been called toxic by opponents of the stadium plan.
Should the replacement parkland wind up in Rego Park, Berkowitz said it could cause problems for the neighborhood.
"You're talking about a residential area where you're going to have people playing on these fields," Berkowitz said. "I don't think residents will stand for it. I mean, it gets crowded during our little league season."