November 26, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
MLS hopes to add more stadiums
Even with nine new stadiums opening for Major League Soccer in the last six years, the league's building boom might not quite be over.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber made that pretty clear on his conference call with reporters on Monday. The San Jose Earthquakes already have broken ground on a new facility, which is expected to open in 2014, and two other clubs, the New England Revolution and D.C. United, took steps in the last few months to move closer to having facilities of their own.
"I believe there is new momentum in D.C. There seems to be a more focused approach with Jason Levien both with local government but also with local developers who have access to land. Both (MLS President) Mark Abbott and I have been in discussions the last week with the holder of that land."
The big change in the District has been the emergence of a new majority ownership for United in the presence of Erick Thohir and Levien, who joined the club's ownership as Managing Partners in July.
Garber says the new investment group has "the capacity to be able to put more private equity into a deal, and that makes the opportunity far more viable during these economic times than perhaps it would have been when [the team] was looking for an enormous amount of public support.”
A site near the Washington Nationals’ ballpark near Poplar Point has been identified as the potential target for a new stadium for United.
Things in New England appear to be a little less far along, and the situation there is not as dire as it is in D.C., where R.F.K. Stadium threatens to crumble even further with each passing season.
The Kraft family, owners of the Revolution and the New England Patriots, also own Gillette Stadium, so the situation is more about aesthetics and the size of the Revs crowds warranting a more intimate setting than the need to control dates and revenue.
Several sites in the Boston market are under consideration, including one in Somerville, Mass, and another on the site of the Wonderland Greyhound race track in Revere, Mass.
“The Kraft family continues to be focused on trying to find a soccer stadium solution downtown," said Garber. "We are looking for public support up in that area because of the cost of developing a project there. They were here in the office two weeks ago giving us an update, and it’s fair to say that though there is nothing new to report, the family is focused on it.”
Garber also is himself focused on getting a stadium built in New York City for what would become MLS's 20th team.
Garber said that Major League Soccer hopes to finalize getting approval "shortly" for the proposed $300-million soccer-specific stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, N.Y.
While Garber said that he had hoped to finalize the building of the stadium "soon" and "shortly," he admitted that there was "a lot of work that needs to happen" for the league to finalize its agreement with New York City over the use of the land and to build a stadium on 10 acres in the park.