A First Look at NYCFC's Bronx Stadium Plan

And signs it may be closer than you think.

On July 30, 2018, a team led by the developer Maddd Equities met with the NYC Department of City Planning to lay out a neighborhood-wide vision for a stadium project near Yankee Stadium. The new stadium would be soccer-specific, home to New York City Football Club. NYCFC, City Football Group, the Yankees, and a host of construction companies, law firms, and lobbyists were already on board. They had a big-name architect. There were drawings.

In the year and a half since the presentation, NYCFC’s stadium search has zeroed in on that South Bronx location, known as the GAL site. Now, for the first time, The Outfield can share early images of the stadium plan obtained via public records requests. And though NYCFC and city officials have kept quiet about stadium progress, previously unreported records suggest things may be further along than fans think.

The Stadium Plan

The project that Maddd Equities pitched city planners in the summer of 2018 aligns with details that The New York Times first reported a couple weeks before the meeting: a 26,000-seat soccer stadium anchoring a multibillion dollar development to include, according to the Times, “a park, a hotel and conference center focused on soccer and sports, shops, office space, a school and as many as 3,000 affordable apartments.” The newly obtained slides below show where many of those elements would fit into the proposal as it looked at the time.

The project’s July 2018 scope, revised from an earlier proposal dated March 30, 2018, stretched from parking lots north of the GAL Manufacturing elevator parts factory, where the stadium would sit, and continued nearly half a mile down River Avenue, where several blocks zoned for manufacturing were slated to be rezoned and developed for commercial and residential use. Those rezoning applications, which would trigger a long public planning process, have not yet been filed.

Sprinkled throughout the slide deck were tantalizing glimpses of the stadium itself: a partly covered rectangular structure with the corners lopped off to fit its peculiar triangular footprint.

These are not the first architectural renderings to emerge from NYCFC’s seven-year search for a home. They’re not even the first ones associated with Rafael Viñoly Architects, listed as “Stadium Architect” in the presentation. That firm, which keeps offices in New York, Manchester, and Abu Dhabi, has designed training facilities for Manchester City and NYCFC. Rafael Viñoly was also the architect listed for a $700 million NYCFC stadium proposal at Harlem River Yards, whose leaked renderings caused a stir last year before the club declared that it was “not an active site.”

But unlike Harlem River Yards, the GAL site is still very much in play. And while details may have changed since city planners saw those early sketches, recent lobbying filings and public records obtained by The Outfield show that NYCFC and its partners are still working to build a soccer stadium on the same site in the Bronx, right where the pictures show it.

The Public Records

On October 30, 2019, the nonprofit Urban Land Institute held a Technical Assistance Panel to discuss Bronx community development needs. The panel operated under the assumption that a stadium would be built on the GAL site, and the ideas presented at the TAP meeting bore similarities to Maddd Equities’ presentation, including an emphasis on affordable housing. Though the manager of the local Bronx community board, Paul Philps, noted at the meeting that no formal stadium proposal had crossed his desk, records show that the plan has continued to receive quiet attention from city government.

In an email obtained by The Outfield dated July 1, 2019, Nate Gray from the NYC Economic Development Corporation talked soccer stadium with David Quart of VHB, a planning, design, transportation, land development, and environmental firm. After rattling off traffic considerations, programming and uses, and local community partnership opportunities, Gray added, “Once you have had a chance to digest with the team, we should talk about a follow up meeting at the appropriate time.” Gray and Quart did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether “the team” referred to NYCFC or the project team.

Included as an attachment to that email was a map of the stadium development that identified a particular plot along the Harlem River as “GAL Manufacturing Relocation Site.”

Finding a new home for GAL Manufacturing has long been an obstacle to building an NYCFC stadium where the factory stands. Although Maddd Equities reportedly reached a binding agreement to secure the GAL property in 2018, a May 2019 email from Quart to the Department of City Planning made clear that GAL was still looking for the right relocation site, and that the city itself was involved in the relocation effort. That process may have been one cause for delay for the stadium project.

You won’t hear much about delays—or anything else—from NYCFC. A club spokesperson declined to speak on the record about GAL site stadium plans, referring The Outfield to the club’s routine statement that it “is actively pursuing a permanent home in NYC and exploring several options, including working with Maddd Equities in the Bronx.”

Behind the scenes, though, NYCFC’s partners have been meeting with city officials about specific details surrounding the development. Public filings show that the law firm Akerman LLP, which was listed as “Land Use Lead – ULURP” in Maddd Equities’ stadium presentation, focused its most recent lobbying for Maddd on “South Bronx Master Plan – Block 2490, Lot 1 in the Bronx.” Block 2490, Lot 1 is better known as 45 River Avenue, one of the underused parking garages at the heart of the stadium plan.

Since 2014, a client registered as “CFG Stadium Group, LLC” has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to Martin Edelman, who sits on City Football Group’s board and signs his own lobbying registrations, and Geto & De Milly, whose website touts the company’s experience “handling public affairs for New York City’s newest Major League Soccer team, the New York City Football Club.”

On October 29, Edelman registered a brand new lobbyist for CFG Stadium Group: The Hayes Initiative, a PR firm that advertises its ability to handle “high pressure, politically sensitive, and confidential issues” as well as “making an announcement about a community improvement in your neighborhood.” Anthony Hayes, who signed the registration, did not immediately return a request for comment on the nature of his relationship with NYCFC.

Whatever its reasons, NYCFC’s silence around its stadium maneuvering seems to have caught on. On June 18, in the lead-up to the fall ULI TAP planning session, an employee at the Department of City Planning emailed a ULI representative. “How much of the briefing book and other materials will be made public? i.e. posted on a website or otherwise publicly available,” he asked. “We just wanted to see as the applicant’s stadium proposal is still at a sensitive stage.” ❧

Image: Development Conversation, NYC Department of City Planning, July 30, 2018