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Bronx BP Tries to Kick Queens Out of Play in Attempt to Lure Soccer Team

By Patrick Wall | June 14, 2013 7:15am
 Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. asked MLS to build a stadium for its newest team in The Bronx, not Queens.
Major League Soccer in The Bronx
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THE BRONX — If Major League Soccer's shot at a stadium in Queens gets deflected, The Bronx is ready to sweep in and score.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. sent a letter to MLS Commissioner Don Garber Wednesday urging the league to consider housing the city’s second professional soccer team, the New York City Football Club, in the northernmost borough.

“What I’m saying is, ‘If it didn't work out in Queens, why not bring soccer to The Bronx?’” Diaz said in an interview Thursday.

The league formally announced last month that the New York City FC would become its 20th team, kicking off in 2015 and joining the New York Red Bulls, which plays in New Jersey.

The new club is co-owned by the Yankees and the English Premier League’s Manchester City Football Club.

But an MLS plan to build a 25,000-seat stadium for the new team in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park, displacing the green space that's already there, struck some locals as an unfair trade.

With no immediate deal in sight, the league said last month it would consider other sites beyond Flushing-Meadows and possibly beyond Queens.

In the meantime, Yankee Stadium has been floated as a possible interim home field.

In his letter, Diaz said The Bronx is the ideal borough for a permanent professional soccer stadium.

It is an emerging “sports mecca,” with plans in the works for a $22 million tennis center, a Donald Trump-managed golf course and a massive ice sports arena soon to join the borough’s world-famous Yankee Stadium, Diaz argued.

“Professional soccer would be a perfect complement to these projects,” Diaz wrote.

What’s more, as immigrants from West Africa, Latin America and other soccer-crazed regions continue to settle in The Bronx, soccer will only grow in popularity there, he said.

And for local businesses, restaurants and workers, a new stadium could be an economic hat trick, Diaz added.

“It’s about creating a new brand for the borough, creating jobs and creating a level of entertainment that people want to see,” Diaz said Thursday.

The MLS referred questions about Diaz’s request to the New York City FC owners. The Yankees declined to comment and Manchester City did not immediately respond.

Diaz said he had not yet received a reply, but that he was only seeking to initiate “preliminary conversations.”

His office does not have a specific site in mind, whether on public or private land, he added.

Asked if he anticipated the level of resistance that Queens residents put up against a parkland stadium there — or, for that matter, the fury many Bronx residents felt when the Yankees built their new stadium over a neighborhood park — Diaz demurred.

“That’s way down the road,” he said. “We don’t even know where it’s going to go.”