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Support for new soccer stadium falling, survey says

A survey by a South Bronx business group says that local support for building a new soccer stadium to house the NYC Football Club has fallen to 56%, down from 67% in 2019 and 75% in 2014.

The 161st Street Business Improvement District has conducted the three surveys, speaking to more than 200 people living or working in the South Bronx each time. The group’s executive director, Cary Goodman, attributed the dip in support to a handful of causes.

“Seven years ago, this neighborhood was wild about the idea of a pro soccer stadium and making it in the South Bronx,” Goodman said in a press release. “Seven years later nothing has happened. No one has consulted with this neighborhood. Not the team; not the city; and not the Yankees.”

The soccer team currently plays home games at Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx, though many games are held at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, due to conflicting schedules between the Yankees and the soccer team. The club has sought a full-time home since its founding in 2013.

Bronx Borough President Diáz Jr. first proposed building the arena in the South Bronx in June 2013, suggesting a location on 153rd Street and River Avenue, just south of Yankee Stadium.

Goodman added that many of the residents in favor of building the stadium in the most recent survey granted their approval only on certain conditions.

Of the 56% who still support building a new soccer stadium, almost three out of four said they would want the soccer team ownership group to pay for the stadium’s construction. That would contrast with Yankee Stadium, which received most of its funding from tax-exempt municipal bonds issued by the city. According to the Brookings Institution, taxpayers across the US contributed more than $400 million to building Yankee Stadium.

Six out of ten pro-stadium residents said they were willing as taxpayers to help finance the project if they could share in the revenue.

Other popular conditions were that the stadium should pay property taxes, that it should be accessible to community sports teams, and that it should host a professional women’s soccer team.

The main reason for their support, those who still want the stadium built in the neighborhood said, is the positive impact on the local economy by creating jobs and bringing more visitors to the area.

For those opposed, the biggest issue was increasing traffic in an already congested area.

The survey comes at a time when the fate of the soccer stadium is uncertain. Earlier this year, Fox Business reported that a deal between the soccer club’s ownership group, which includes the New York Yankees, and the city’s Economic Development Corporation, fell through.

Representatives from both sides of the deal pointed fingers at the other party. Negotiations have yet to continue since the deal went awry.

The agreement would have included $1 billion of investment in the neighborhood, including plans to build housing, retail space, and a hotel in the South Bronx.

If progress on the Bronx-based deal remains stagnant, then the soccer club may look elsewhere for a new venue. Reports from several years back stated that the club considered locations across the greater New York area, including all five boroughs.

In a recent media availability session, Mayor Bill de Blasio told a reporter from The City that he had his doubts about securing a deal that locals are satisfied with, saying, “It has to happen in an equitable manner. It has to happen in the manner the community is comfortable with and believes in.”

For now, Goodman isn’t sure if that will happen.

“The community has been left out of the process, excluded from expressing its opinions to the supposed developers and builders and owners,” he lamented.

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