The predicament stems from the struggle to build a permanent home for NYCFC in the five boroughs in time for the expansion side’s first match next year. The alliance between NYCFC investors Manchester City FC and the New York Yankees boasts ample financial and political resources, but their combined efforts have not yielded a concrete stadium plan as of yet.
As NYCFC continues its search for a suitable location for its 25,000 to 30,000-seat soccer-specific venue, the club needs a temporary home for the team poised to take the field next season. NYCFC delayed the selection of its home ground for 2015 for as long as possible to facilitate the stadium hunt, but the club recently decided to use Yankee Stadium in a bid to obtain more latitude in its quest and remove any doubts about the club’s immediate future, according to the Times.
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The decision to play at Yankee Stadium makes perfect sense from a financial perspective, but it creates some logistical hurdles for NYCFC and the Yankees to navigate. The significant overlap between the baseball and soccer seasons – both teams will use the venue between April and September, though the Yankees will certainly hope to play in October, too – poses a scheduling nightmare. Those issues also extend to the surface itself: stadium groundskeepers must lay temporary grass over a portion of the infield to create a regulation-size field.
Even those fairly reasonable measures present some cause for concern for coaches and players alike. NYCFC is expected to rely on a technical, possession-oriented approach fostered by former Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis, but those efforts could prove more difficult to implement if the natural limitations of the venue restrict the dimensions and the quality of the field. The players will also harbor some concerns about the safety of consistently playing on a surface patched on one side to obscure the dirt below, a temporary salve designed to make the field playable without permanently addressing the underlying foundation.
Those foibles did not pose much of an impediment to the one-off exhibition matches held at Yankee Stadium over the past two years (four high-profile friendlies in total), but they could present a problem or two with the constant wear from a baseball team with 81 matches on its docket and a soccer club charged with playing 17 home matches (if the league retains a 34-game schedule next season) between those Yankee homestands.
At this point, those hurdles pose less of a threat than the potential alternatives. NYCFC holds few other options at this juncture: there isn’t much sense in abandoning the city to reside at Red Bull Arena with their mooted rivals in Harrison, N.J. or in paying rent to the Mets for Citi Field to cope with the same concerns at a much higher price point.
In the absence of a soccer-specific stadium or other realistic choices in the city proper, NYCFC plumped for the fiscally prudent option of playing in Yankee Stadium. It isn’t ideal by any stretch, but the solution at least buys NYCFC some time to devise the sort of permanent answer required to transition the club into a more suitable home by the end of the decade.