Abu Dhabi Billionaire Pursues MLS Team for Queens, Report Says

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on April 29, 2013 5:39pm 

QUEENS — An Abu Dhabi billionaire, who owns a top English soccer club, is looking to develop a Major League Soccer team that would be based in Fresh Meadows-Corona Park, the New York Times reported.

A deal to use parkland for a 25,000-seat MLS stadium has both supporters and opponents in the community.

According to the paper, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, 43, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, entered final negotiations to purchase an MLS franchise in Queens.

The MLS did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The Times also reported that the prospective owner is willing to pay a $100 million expansion fee for the league's team, which could be called New York City F.C., according to the report.

In 2009, the sheikh was 104th on the Forbes’ world’s billionaires list with $4.9 billion. He also owns Manchester City in England's Premier League.

Last week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he is hoping to announce plans for the stadium in Queens within the next four to six weeks. 

According to the Times, the league wants to make the announcement before May 25, when Manchester City is scheduled to play a game at Yankee Stadium against its English rival Chelsea.

"We are deeply engaged with potential ownership groups and we're hopeful to be able to announce a 20th team [for the soccer league] within the next [four to six weeks]," Garber said last week.

League officials hope to open the $340 million stadium by 2016.

The venue would be built on a 10-acre site near Citi Field baseball stadium where the New York Mets play.

The MLS has yet to find a replacement for the parkland that it is planning to use.

In response to the report, the Fairness Coalition of Queens, a group of comunity-based organizations, said in a statement: "Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan's profit-making scheme will destroy one of New York City's most cherished parks (...)."

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