Stover discusses Cosmos' stadium proposal


A 25,000-seat professional soccer stadium in New York is being proposed for construction at the center of a rundown area of land with the aspiration of opening by 2016.

Sound familiar? You bet, but it isn’t Major League Soccer’s proposal we are talking about.

The New York Cosmos ownership group has submitted a bold plan to construct a stadium adjacent to Belmont Park right on the border line between New York City and Long Island, and the NASL club is serious about seeing its latest ambitious goal come to fruition.

“Well you don’t put this type of proposal and response to a formal RFP if you are not serious,” Cosmos COO Erik Stover told SBI. “We believe the scope of work is necessary. It is appropriate for this project and we are obviously very serious about our statement to be at the top of the soccer pyramid in this country.”

The “Elmont Town Crossing” proposal holds the Cosmos Stadium as a center piece to a privately-funded $400 million socio-economic commercial revitalization project which will include the construction of a hotel, retail space, eateries and more in an area heavily hit by the devastation of the financial crisis and Hurricane Sandy. The project estimates the creation of 3,000 full-time jobs and 500 temporary construction jobs being created, earning a cash-strapped Nassau County a projected $200 million a year in revenue.

“(Chairman) Seamus O’Brien and the board have been working on this for quite a while,” Stover said. “To be completely candid, it came about a bit sooner then we may have liked simply because of the nature of an RFP process, but Seamus and the board managed the project.

“We certainly had some input but I am very focused on getting the organization right to play in 2013. Once we move towards this project being real, we win the bid and get serious on negotiations and actually put the shovel on the ground, we will be taking more of an active role with it.”

The club estimates ground breaking by 2014 with the stadium opening by the Spring of 2016. Of course, all those projections are contingent on doing one thing first: winning the RFP.

Nassau County is expected to announce the winning bid within the next 90 days.

“If you look at the renderings, it really blends in very nicely to the area with both highways running north, south, east, west through that area with pedestrian bridges,” Stover explained. “It’s a rather large 28 acres of land we are developing on just the stadium site. There is also a secondary site that has the hotel and some other retail and restaurants.

“On the stadium site, it is 28 acres, four-and-a-half of which will be a public park so we donate that to the community. I think right off the bat that those are two very significant points for the beautification of the area.”

Asked how this would affect the team’s continued aspiration to reach the “upper echelon” of the American Soccer pyramid while seemingly competing with Major League Soccer’s multimillion dollar initiative to land a stadium in Flushing, Stover brushed off the notion.

“Well for us, we are very focused on our project,” he said. “There is certainly enough work there. We are not going to concern ourselves with competing concepts. The investors we have, the principles now are very solvent and certainly capable of managing this project on their own.”

For Cosmos fans, the news has been welcomed by a mixed reaction. Though the renderings released on NewCosmosStadium.com have certainly earned plaudits from the team’s supporters, the location is hardly an ideal one for fans.

Stover hopes that, as plans continue to unfold, people see the greater picture behind the project.

“(The stadium) is bordered by two major highways so access by car will be easy,” he stated. “There will be plenty of parking, parking spaces. There will certainly be plenty to do before and after matches with the mixed use development we are planning. The LIRR comes right there and right now. It’s just a train stop for races but we would expect to have the same for our events.

“It’s convenient there,” he continued. “I am not 100% sure, but I believe the LIRR is expanding to Grand Central Station over the next few years so that would mean greater access to Manhattan and greater convenience for everyone plus there are bus lines and other mass transit. As far as mass transit and convenience, it fits all those boxes.”

“The stadium borders Queens. In fact, part of Belmont Park is in Queens. We take that as certainly a benefit to the project. We love the location and I think as our supporters take a look at the concept, see the drawings, renderings and get into the stadium website and actually see what the vision and the plans are, I am certain they will support the idea. If it doesn’t match everybody’s ideal plan, I think over time they will come to see it as the best possible solution for this club.”

    • Ryan

      Has nothing to do with Don Garber. Cosmos are an NASL team, not an MLS team. Which makes this whole thing a bit crazier.


    • Jean Crespo

      RBA is not hard to access at all, its easier to get there than to the upper east side, ever heard of the PATH trains? 5 stations in the city to RBA.


  • malkin

    ““The stadium borders Queens. In fact, part of Belmont Park is in Queens.”

    Ya, great. It would still take me 2 hours to get there from north Brooklyn (2 subways, waiting for LIRR, etc), whereas I can make flushing in 45 minutes (15 min walk over the bridge to queens, less than 30 min on 7 train).

    At the end of the day, no subway = no season tickets.


  • JR

    Now we know why they are not going to be able to put an actual team on the field for the NASL season on time. They were to busy with this project.


  • JP

    Smart move by their leadership as some of the “sandy aid” package approved by congress ($50+ billion) will be destined to “private investments” in infrastructure…


  • Rory

    Better have a direct express route Subway line from each fans’ house to the stadium or we will hear complaints about how inaccessible it is for the rest of time.

    Meanwhile in the southeastern quarter of the nation people are like “I hope an MLS team comes to play two games in a tournament this preseason.”


    • slowleftarm

      Exactly. For most of NYC this is less convenient than RBA. The same whiners who think RBA is too inconvenient will surely balk at this boondoggle of a plan.


      • Adam M.

        I don’t see that. Its easily more convenient (and cheaper) for people in Queens and Brooklyn who have a car not to have to cross the Hudson. Getting to PATH or the LIRR is about the same issue for people living in Manhattan or most of Brooklyn. East siders can take the E express and pick up the LIRR in Queens also. Keep in mind that Belmont manages well over 100,000 people on race day, so I’m sure the physical part of getting people there isn’t the problem.


      • Joamiq

        “People in Queens and Brooklyn who have a car” is not a big population. Getting to the PATH or LIRR might be about the same, but the PATH is a shorter and significantly cheaper ride. Belmont’s numbers come from old folks with cars throughout LI. Those people aren’t coming to Cosmos games.

        There is a small percentage of New Yorkers for whom this stadium will be more convenient to get to, but for most, RBA is actually better. Like others have said, given how much people whine about getting to RBA, the complaining will be double for this stadium.


      • conrad

        Do you have any idea what the percentage of residents in Brooklyn and Queens with cars is? Certainly less than in the United States, and certainly less than in Staten Island. But it’s still more than 50 percent. (http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/04/06/new-yorks-car-ownership-rate-is-on-the-rise/)
        As a share of the population, that is not a large figure; but even HALF of the population of the two boroughs (and why are we not counting Long Island?) is 2.5 million, larger than just about every other MLS market. The Cosmos will do O.K.there.


      • Ryan in NYC by way of NC

        As an actual New Yorker, it will take about the same time to get to Harrison as it would to Belmont Park – about an hour and a half (from Queens). But it’s not really about that. Queens is in New York City. Harrison is in New Jersey. Once NY2 comes, I’d be smart to rebrand NYRB, NJRB. That’ my take.


    • White Kix

      I’m just looking for team within a 14 hour drive. That would be better than it currently is in Tampa.


      • Jeremy

        It looks like Al Lang Stadium is about 30 minutes away from the center of Tampa… Support your current team MLS might want a team there…


      • Kyle

        Yeah, support Tampon Bay. They will need all the support they can get when ATL comes to town. We have unfinished business down there.

        (Seriously, the NASL is a blast, the rivalries are great, and nothing beats live footie.)


  • @NotAlexis

    This is basically for the Long Island crowd. All they’re talking about are suburban things: LIRR, parking lots, highways, mix use new developments. “Enjoy a drink at an Applebee’s and march past some new franchise locations of the same sterile marketing research designed crap people who don’t have the luxury of living in NYC have to endure. By the way we’ve made all spots big enough for your new needlessly large Audi SUV.

    I know there was a plan to put it in Greenpoint. That would be AMAZING. Sure the G sucks but not as much as walking over a pedestrian bridge after waiting in a LIRR train for an hour. Looks like I’m staying a NYRB fan if this plan comes to fruition.


    • slowleftarm

      Wow, what a great supporter. His “support” can be obtained by making life easy for him.


      • Old Gray Mullet

        Which explains perfectly all of the NY2 fans at current, btw.


      • @NotAlexis

        This probably won’t help my case but I grew up an Arsenal, Peñarol and USMNT fan. I never connected with Metro. I only became a NYRB fan when Thierry Henry signed on. Yeah I get it, I’m not exactly what Viking or Empire supporters want to support the team but I’m not hiding from it and acting like I was cheering for the team when they were playing at Giants stadium. That said, if I had a more local team, yup I’d support them wholeheartedly. If you’re a Knicks fan and was raised in BK, I’d understand you switching to Nets. I’ll support the local team. Bk is local, Belmont and Harrison are not.

        Also y’all are mad judgy. Wonder why so many fans raised watching other leagues don’t exactly feel welcome when it comes to MLS supporters? I can’t tell you who the first Mutiny coach was, sorry, but I do enjoy, support, root, attend, and help grow interest in the game and league. You guys need a few more of me if you want to fill these stadiums.


  • Adam M.

    To sum up: Cosmos have a major brand name and a really rich ownership group who have submitted a real stadium plan to a real group really considering it on land already approved for that use that sits right off major roads, has ample parking and comes with pre-existing public transportation that runs from NYC and LI. MLS’s NY2 has no owners, no name, no approvals, and no real stadium plan other than a hoped for location that requires cutting through tons of red tape. I think the message here is that Cosmos can start playing professional soccer in their own stadium in a few years only 15-20 minutes away from Flushing with far less trouble than the current, non-existent MLS 2 might have if it ever gets owners. I’d love MLS in Flushing and like that idea more than Belmont, but what Cosmos proposes seems much more realistic at this point. As far the difficulty getting there, if New Yorkers weren’t complaining about getting around the city, it wouldn’t be New York.


    • Hogatroge


      1. MLS also considered Belmont, and passed.

      2. The Cosmos will not be entering MLS without MLS’s consent.


    • Jim B

      The alternative viewpoint is that MLS has learned its lesson from its initial round of stadium constructions in places like Frisco, Commerce City, and Bridgeview and realized that location is critically important to developing the type of fervent fanbases that have been realized in places like Toronto, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, etc.

      I’m happy to see the Cosmos ownership making a serious proposal, but this location doesn’t seem to fit MLS’ strategy. The league may need to jump through more hoops to get their stadium approved and built, but that’s usually true when you are talking about a better location.

      All that said, I kind of doubt this gets done anyway. I have a real hard time believing any responsible governing body would approve this project before the Cosmos play a game and before and while they are still playing in the NASL.


      • Adam M.

        Oh, MLS clearly wants to be in Flushing and I don’t blame them. Its ideal except for the lack of ownership, team, and stadium deal, all of which someday may happen. That said, the far end of Flushing Meadows Park should not be confused with downtown anything either. Its not the suburbs, but its not West Side Rail Yards or Astoria either.


      • Jim B

        Understood, but I do really like that location for a team. Seems really well suited to draw and a crowd of ardent soccer supports.

        As for the Flushing stadium not having an owner, a name, or a finalized deal I’d say that MLS is operating under a pretty sound notion that once they receive approval to build in a such an attractive area in New York they’ll be in a much, much better position to negotiate with potential ownership groups. I actually think the league attempting to secure a venue site first prior to awarding a team to anyway is the soundest strategy and makes the most financial sense and may also make site approval easier. Again I think the league realizes this is a pretty critical decision in the life cycle of the league and they want it done right. In this situation, I think the league maintaining a greater level of control makes perfect sense.

        On a side note, I think it bodes well for the league that two potential ownership groups (the Wilpons and Cosmos) are angling pretty hard for a 2nd NY team. When its all said and done I’m guessing MLS pretty easily shatters the expansion fee record for this franchise.


      • Harke's Balls

        Yeah, the whole ardent soccer fans in FMCP is kind of an open question though. There are a lot of ardent baseball fans in Queens, and the Mets don’t draw dick. In FMCP, there are tons of soccer fans for Boca and Club America, etc, and those are the fans MLS has always struggled to draw. NY, just like the Galaxy, have a fair number of fans who are latino, but who are open to rooting for a local team. That is not the same as getting an entire group of people who self-identify as more Colombian or Argentinian or Mexican to support something obviously so “American”. Time after time MLS teams have failed to draw those fans, and Chivas LA is a prime example. You can’t ask for more Mexicans than there are in LA, but that team wildly struggles to convert them. I think a team in FMCP could do quite well, but I don’t doubt it’ll be more American soccer fans (be they latino or caucasian or what) than it will be 5,000 Colombians beating down the door to watch the Cosmos. It’s always been assumed that people playing in FMCP would turn into season ticket holders, but that’s a BIG assumption, based on convenience of commute & not much else.


  • Hal

    Cosmos need to stay in NASL and help build NASL up into a solid D2. It is more important to our growth as a soccer nation and more important to our national side that we have a solid D2 (and D3) than another NY team in MLS.


    • Kyle

      Which I think may be their plan, at least for awhile. Garber has said recently that pro/ rel would depend on having a “vibrant second division”. I know ATL has designs on the shelf to someday expand their stadium to 18,000 capacity (and new majority ownership coming soon). Ft. Lauderdale has stadium upgrade plans in the works with no intention of using them for an MLS bid. San Antonio has an awesome stadium under construction, with future capacity expansion options. There’s a lot of ambition in this league. We’ll see if they can make it happen on a practical level.


  • Troy

    Is this just a bargaining chip to bring down the cost of the NYC2 MLS franchise/stadium? My bet is yes. Seems like an interesting ploy but when it comes down to it, MLS holds most of the cards. I can see Garber: “Great, build your stadium, play in NASL forever while we build a stadium actually in NYC and have a centrally located team where most of the fans are.”

    Only thing in Cosmos’ favor is if they get shovels in the ground before MLS does. Either plan could run into serious hiccups, especially the MLS one. If the Cosmos do get the momentum behind theirs then MLS will have a hard time convincing another ownership group to pay 100 Million +.

    Just high-stakes poker between MLS and Cosmos if you ask me. Pretty ballsy on Cosmos part though – you have to hand it to them. They know they have the automatic pedigree with the name and they’re using it.

    I hope that MLS and them come to their senses and the Cosmos head to Queens. Otherwise what a crappy deal for the NYC fans west of Nassau-flippin county.


    • beto

      +1 its a game, i see it as the cosmos don’t want to pay Garber’s price for Garber’s stadium and entry into Garber’s league, so they are showing him that they can do it with out him… hard to tell how this one might turn out…


  • Non NYer

    The point is not just that it might be inconvenient, its that MLS has learned by now they should not count on the suburbanites to support their clubs. It hasnt worked in Chicago, Dallas, Colorado, etc… It wont work in NYC. You dont create a buzz around a team by counting on moms to drive their 2.4 kids to two games a year. You create a buzz by getting young professionals to buy into the team.
    Then everyone else follows when they see how big a deal matches are.

    Also just because 100K people show up to the Belmont does not mean people will turn out for 20 soccer matches a year. The Redskins draw 70K to Landover, but if DC United moved out there, you would lose half of your season ticket holders.


  • Eugene

    Hold on, the LIRR is expanding to Grand Central Station?!?! That’s bigger news than this gorgeous stadium proposal. That would be a massive construction project in midtown Manhattan!


  • solles

    well so to me the design looks amazing, dont like the distance between the stands and the field.


  • inkedAG

    This is in middle of nowhere Queens and the start of Nassau County. Not exactly and ideal location. Go back to that drawing board, Cosmos.


  • james

    if this comes to fruition and they join MLS , Redbull can kiss me goodbye.. this is only 4 miles away from my house basically a 10 min drive in traffic and less on a good day. Why would i say with the ever failing bulls who failed me fro nearly 20 years now ? …


  • Edwin in LA

    Okay I have heard some people say that this if even farther than Red Bull Arena from Manhattan…I suppose that it depends on what half of New York City you live whether it’s northern or southern….

    But it does seem counterproductive to have a stadium this far out…I mean it sounds like a good 20 minutes from Flushing which is kinda far if you ask me…

    Either way what surprises me the most is that I sort got the feeling that MLS was working on the Flushing Meadows Stadium proposal for a NY2 team that would pretty much have to be Cosmos with owners that would have deep pockets and already playing in NASL for a couple of years before they could move into their stadium and be part of MLS. So this seems interesting and confusing I guess…

    Any New Yorkers that can tell us if this is indeed as bad or worst than RBA in terms of distance from NYC?


    • Harke's Balls

      Imagine LA had a team in Burbank. It was a nice stadium, but it was “in the valley”, and LA residents always wanted a team in “LA proper”. So, they talk about putting a stadium in Inglewood, but end up putting it in Carson. Okay, so, not “in the valley”, but, not exactly downtown or someplace desirable, and from parts of LA, actually further away. So, think of that, and then remember that no one in NY has a car. There is a subway (PATH train, but still a subway) that goes from Manhattan direct to RBA. There is nothing equivalent here, your only option is commuter rail; more expensive, less frequent, long travel time.

      So, to the residents of far east Queens, this move from Flushing to Belmont isn’t really a big deal, if you own a car anyway. But, that’s <5% of NYers, and the whole point of having NY2 in Flushing was that it was on a subway line, and 8m potential customers are a $ 2.25 subway ride away. Some closer than others, but, "easy" in the minds of NYers. No one truly "from the city" wants to go off the grid. They don't like going to staten island, they don't like going to Jersey, and they don't want to go anywhere they'll need a car. So, Belmont doesn't really help solve much. You have a train that goes there, but it's commuter rail, and it's 36 minutes from midtown. Would someone from LA feel cool about a team if it was in Pomona, or Anaheim, when you wanted it in Pasadena?

      That's basically what we're dealing with here. Nassau County is really both an entirely different county, and completely not what anyone who was pulling for NY2 was asking for. It is easy to do because the land is set for development, and they could truly kick a ball there in 2016 (or, just about), where Flushing might be 2018 before it's really done, but this is truly a poor substitute for what any NY2 fan was asking for. Hope that helps.


    • Sam

      It’s MUCH better in terms of distance from NYC. By a good margin. Having a car helps, but the mass transit around the area is pretty good and can be improved further, possibly by adding more bus routes. If you’re from Queens and Long Island, it’s great. Brooklynites and Manhattanites will have a slightly longer trip, but it’s not as bad as some of the detractors here are saying. It’ll probably be only 15 extra minutes. Belmont is plenty accessible from both the east and the west.

      I think Harke’s Balls is exaggerating quite a bit. That, or he’s from Brooklyn or Manhattan, which is a different experience entirely. He’s quite wrong about the cars in Queens — there are PLENTY. And I’ll admit the LIRR is getting expensive, but I’ve taken it from Midtown to the first stop beyond Jamaica (not far from Belmont) and the ride was about 15-20 minutes tops without delays. His analogy doesn’t quite work since LA’s transit system is rather different from NYC’s and LA is very much a car-centered city.

      But he is correct in that no one from New York likes going to Jersey if they could possibly help it. It’s both a physical and psychological barrier that we really don’t like to cross a lot. I certainly won’t. There’s a reason why no one in Queens or Long Island knows who the Red Bulls are or that they even exist. I live close to Queens in Nassau, and it would take me over 2 hours just to get to Red Bull Arena via mass transit, and much more by car with the bridges and tolls. Now that I think about it, it would probably take longer: Nassau mass transit sucks on weekends.

      As for it being in Nassau County, well that’s true. But it’s right on the Queens-Nassau border. It’s even possible that one goal will be in one county and one goal in the other. Plus, it avoids all the city NIMBYs and Machiavellian city politics. Will it disappoint some NY2 fans? Sure. Then again, some of those same fans would like a 50,000+ soccer stadium in Manhattan or, barring that, Long Island City or Greenpoint. Keep dreaming.

      This Belmont plan is pretty realistic and not a bad option. It fits well with the Cosmos’s history and will do the Elmont community a lot of good. The local community and local/county governments seem for it. People seem excited about it, especially since it’s privately funded. Don’t believe that everyone in Nassau is rich — there are a few wealthy enclaves, but it’s largely middle-class/lower middle class people who pay a ton in property and school taxes. An accessible sports team would be great, especially since the rich owners aren’t putting the onus of funding everything on the taxpayers. Plus, the space is there. And for all the talk of immigrant communities in Flushing, don’t forget that Nassau (especially Hempstead) has a large number of immigrants as well, especially since the city’s gentrification schemes are pushing poorer people out to the ‘burbs.

      What will most likely happen is that the Red Bulls will take New Jersey, Manhattan, and Staten Island. The Cosmos or NY2 will take Queens and Long Island. Brooklyn will be split or, as they have been doing lately, try to steal the Red Bulls from Jersey. Or make their own team.


  • Original Aaron

    Hmmm… I wonder how MLS feels about the Cosmos using Donovan’s image to promote their team?!?! Isn’t LD’s image owned by MLS? Go to Gallery, then look for the picture of “Two Story Retail Component Along Hempstead Turnpike West”


    • Sam

      Donovan’s image up there is more likely a nod to the US National Team and not MLS. The Cosmos are hoping that this proposed stadium will host national team games and Donovan is one of the USMNT’s most recognizable stars.


  • Supa

    The Cosmos will have the “SSS” (Stadium, Supporter Clubs, Shirts) and that’s what they are after. If they dominate the NASL, show well in the US Open cup and in the Champions League. A powerful team gets coverage, especally in NY.


  • GatoRonaldo

    A totally dumb idea! I have been a season ticket holder with the Red Bulls / Metrostars from the beginning of MLS and have schlepped to Jersey from Coram, Suffolk County, NY all these years. So, this dedicated MLS fan speaks from experience. The Cosmos BELONG either in the old World’s Fair area of Queens (Citi Field/ Shea Stadium / National Tennis Stadium area) or Manhattan. Anywhere else, like Belmont/Elmont is away from central mass transit lines and the “central population” of soccer fans. If you want to sell out every game, the Cosmos need to be in “central city”. Think: Is Red Bull Arena sold out for every game? No!


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