NYCFC stadium search slowed by COVID-19: "It just wasn’t anyone’s top priority"

Tajouri-Shradi - side profile - Yankee Stadium backdrop

With New York City long at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, both globally and in the United States, NYCFC CEO Brad Sims said the club’s recent attention shifted toward community-focused initiatives. 

One byproduct was the ongoing search for a soccer-specific stadium went on pause. The club currently plays at MLB venue Yankee Stadium, though this past winter confirmed discussions with Bronx developers to build a privately-financed 25,000-seat stadium nearby.

“In New York, especially with how hard we got hit early on, it was all about people and safety,” Sims said Monday in a conference call. “There hadn’t really been a lot of specific dialogue and focus since then because it just wasn’t anyone’s top priority and it’s not really appropriate to focus on that during the times we were in.”

As New York state has slowly reopened, Sims said there’s been a shifting mindset to resume projects and talks. He added that it’s a community-driven process, and he’s unsure how COVID-19 has impacted overall timing.

“I think it’s too early to figure out if that’s been impacted, and we continue to do work on our end to control the things that we can control,” Sims said. “But ultimately it’s going to be very driven, the process, on a going forward basis, by community leaders and local elected officials, community boards, et cetera. We’re looking forward to that process, hopefully, starting in the very near future.”

Sims also discussed where NYCFC could play after the MLS is Back Tournament concludes with the Aug. 11 final. The league intends to play matches in-market, and Sims said the impending MLB season makes it “very, very unlikely” that Yankee Stadium will be available.

In a separate call, Sims said that Red Bull Arena, home of Hudson River Derby rival New York Red Bulls, is one possibility. The club played there March 11 during a Concacaf Champions League match against Tigres UANL, and last year’s Audi MLS Playoff match was hosted at Citi Field (home of the MLB's New York Mets).

Sims said he’s become well-acquainted with finding alternate venues and that search will become clearer in the coming weeks. Proximity and an ability to play head coach Ronny Deila's preferred style also factor in, Sims said.

“We’re working through that,” Sims said. “A lot of moving parts about will we be able to have fans or won’t we. If we are, what percent capacity would be allowed? That’s really a situation that’s determined by local government authorities. So, a lot of moving parts but we’re through the process and vetting out numerous venue options."