January 5, 2013
Metsí proposal to host an MLS team is out of left field
By Michael Lewis
Some unsolicited advice to the Mets and New York City councilman Peter Vallone:
Before throwing out a proposal of Citi Field playing home to a Major League Soccer team, do some due diligence on the subject.
It might work on a temporary basis, hosting a team while a soccer-specific stadium is being built, but not for the long haul.
It just doesn't fit into Major League Soccer's plans.
If Vallone and the Mets did any research, they would have had to know that the league is moving toward having every team play its own stadium. It is one of the criteria for any potential expansion team. If there is no plan to have one, forget about it.
A baseball stadium is not the proper venue to watch a soccer game.
The reasons are many, including avoiding cavernous stadiums and playing in better suited stadium in the 20,000-seat range, which makes for an intimate atmosphere. Baseball parks are not configured for soccer as fans find themselves light years away from the action. Again, it could work for one-shot deals such as international friendlies, but not on a recurring basis.
Please see the examples of Red Bull Arena (Harrison, N.J.), Livestrong Sporting Park (Kansas City), BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston), to name just a few recent examples of stadia with intimate settings.
International soccer friendlies might work a few times a year, but not for a team that will play a minimum of 17 regular-season matches, several friendlies and as many as three playoff games over eight or nine months.
And any soccer team would be at the mercy of the baseball schedule, which could mean two-week blocks of not playing at home when it would want and could lead to problems scheduling Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup games at home.
While technology has improved temporary fields considerably over the past two decades, playing on one for that many games just doesn't seem to be the right and even safe way of doing things.
And then there is the problem of make-up games. What if the Mets would have to play a rained out game when a soccer game is scheduled? Baseball would always get precedence, as it should in a baseball park.
When the New York Cosmos played at Yankee Stadium in 1976, the Yankees had the right to postpone a Cosmos game when there was a threat of rain. I can't see MLS or any team giving that right away.
Saying that, there are legitimate concerns brought up by the Fairness Coalition of Queens about the environmental impact of building a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Flushing and replacing as many as 13 acres of parkland. Those questions must be asked of and answered by MLS officials.
They should concern themselves to what they do best, which is running a baseball team.
Given their results over the last few years, they have more than enough work to do.
But hosting a soccer team in a baseball stadium on a permanent basis?
It just wouldn't work in the 21st century.