The New York City Football Club announced on Monday that they will kick off their inaugural season in March 2015 at Yankee Stadium. The team is jointly owned by the New York Yankees and Manchester City Football Club.
Mariano Rivera was a surprise guest at the Monday morning press conference at Yankee Stadium. Rivera has his season tickets and his seat number is one and account was numbered 42 in tribute to his Yankees uniform number. Rivera said he is used to closing but, “I am the starter now, so happy to be number one and a big supporter of the team and you guys will definitely my support, and hopefully many fans will come. I notice that in New York City, we have a lot of people that love to talk soccer, that’s what II do too. That’s what I always say, that soccer was, and still is, my number one game. Baseball got in between, but thank you again for allowing me to have this honor and being here in New York, there’s no place better than that for the NYC team.”
I asked Rivera if he has been approached about an ownership stake, and if he would be interested in having one. Rivera said, “I have been approached of that yet, and if it comes, I have to really consider it because, as I said before, I love the game of soccer and it would be nice to be a part of it, but that’s something that hasn’t brought up yet.”
Yankees President Randy Levine said, “By hosting the New York City Football Club for its inaugural season, Yankee Stadium will be hosting a very special chapter in sports history. The Yankees are pleased to welcome New York City FC, all of its players and its fans, to our home, and believe the team’s dynamic presence in 2015 will make The Stadium the most vibrant venue in the world.”
Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost said, “One thing I certainly can reflect upon is that what you’ve heard so far is the thrill of bringing soccer to Yankee Stadium, and the repetitive use of the term ‘Yankee Stadium.’ That’s the venue, that’s the name, and that is why Yankee Stadium was, is, and always will be Yankee Stadium.
Trost said of the set-up for soccer, “Yankee Stadium’s current capacity is 49,642. That does include ADA (disabled access) seats, but not SROs (standing room). Except for select games, we intend to close off the grandstand and the terrace level, which would close about 16,198 seats, bringing the capacity for soccer down to 33,444, which is actually more in line with the stadiums that have been built in MLS for soccer facilities.” Levine said they would open more sections if they sell out the first year.
Trost said of making it ready for soccer, “The field conversion takes about three days. Could we do it in two and a half? Yeah,if we work around the clock. Taking the field and putting it back for baseball, same thing, three days, we could push it to two and a half. Three days is important based on weather, weather conditions, etc. So we’re analyzing that when it comes to the scheduling, and we will work out the schedule- we’ve done it before. The season will start in mid-March, and we will have 17 or so games here during the regular season, not mentioning postseason. You can work it in, we’ve analyzed it. We’ve tested it against existing schedules. The most difficult part will be awaiting the receipt of the schedule from Major League Baseball, which is sometime in late summer and final schedule in December. We will be working with the club and Major League Soccer to make sure that the games will not get in the way of our regular schedule.
The field will run from left field to the first base line, right in front of the Yankees dugout. Trost said of this, “We have no concern about the placement of the pitch (British term for field) onto our field, no corner issues. There’s a six foot rule when it comes to distance during obstruction. The closest corner will be in the upper right corner near the bleachers, and that’s eight feet, nine inches, so as you can see, it fits in perfectly.
What about the pitcher’s mound? Trost said, “We’ve moved the pitch a little different than we’ve had in the past so it’s not on the pitcher’s mound, which is about two feet, ten inches. So, as a result of that, what we were hoping to do is actually not have to remove the mound, but it would appear we have to. So, we will be doing is tearing down the mound, putting a base under it, rebuilding the mound, and then using a claw-like structure to lift the mound before each game, move it and store it. That way we can replace the mound, which generally takes a day to take down and a day to put back, so we’re reducing that time by removing the mound. We will not be the first to do this, it’s been done before, and we’ll just take a page out of the book of the San Francisco Giants.”
Tim Pernetti, Chief Business Officer of New York City FC, said “Our fans will have a variety of ways of getting here to see a quality of soccer that is going to be really high level and exciting and fun. We’re going to create a tremendous experience at Yankee Stadium. Plus, this is the first MLS season that will be played in New York City, and what better place to do that than Yankee Stadium? No better place. The Yankees have a proven ability as everybody’s seen since the day they opened the doors here at the New Yankee Stadium to pull these events off, in season, out of season, hockey, soccer, concerts, you name it, they’ve done it.”
Pernetti said of the Yankees’ history with soccer, “They’re no stranger to soccer, that’s for sure. You’ve seen a lot of very high level, worldwide games played here. Our sister club in Manchester played here last year and also will be playing here again on July 30th against Liverpool, so the Yankees have figured out a way to understand the expectations of soccer. They hosted the games and they have the best grounds crew in the world, they understand the needs of our club and we wouldn’t be here otherwise. This is a tremendous launching pad for our club for next season.”
Claudio Reyna, former star for the US National Soccer team and a local soccer star with the MetroStars, is the Director of Football Operations for New York City FC, and he said, “By having our home facility at Yankee Stadium, we feel even more confident that we’ll be able to attract top-level talent from around the world to our organization. Top athletes want the opportunity to showcase their talents at the world’s most famous sports venues, and Yankee Stadium is such a venue.”
NYC FC Head Coach Jason Kreis said, “It’s incredibly exciting to think about launching our team’s first season at Yankee Stadium. Having experienced the powerful impact that a stadium and its atmosphere can have on a team, I can only imagine the excitement and energy that playing in a legendary venue like Yankee Stadium will bring to our Club.”
I asked Randy Levine if horse carriages will be part of the opening day festivities, and he laughed heartily, saying, “That’s a question for my wife!” Levine’s wife, Mindy, along with actor Liam Neeson, is a supporter of keeping the horse carriages in Central Park, leading the charge against Mayor Bill deBlasio’s plan to eliminate them. Neeson, in a New York Times opinion piece last Tuesday, called Mindy Levine’s plan “visionary.” He said her plan is “that the horse-drawn carriage business could coexist with riding stables and therapeutic riding facilities – all within the setting of Central Park itself.”