May 1, 2016
by Charles Cuttone
For Cosmos, time to get a move on
HEMPSTEAD, NY—I wasn’t expecting to be sitting at James M. Shuart Stadium today. No, three years ago, when I first thought about a possible visit home to see the New York Cosmos play, I thought sure it would be at their new 25,000 seat stadium at Belmont Park.
After all, it seemed like such a no-brainer for the state. A proposal to privately fund a new 25,000-seat stadium, something that Long Island has never had, plus the added development of shopping and a hotel around it. With no taxpayer dollars involved.
Compared to other stadium deals in the Metropolitan Area, where the taxpayers have heavily subsidized new homes for the Mets, Yankees, Jets and Giants and the Red Bulls, this should have been an easy decision. There even seemed little public opposition—certainly none of the magnitude that surrounded Major League Soccer’s failed attempt to get a stadium built at Corona Park, near the old World’s Fair grounds. Plus, the competing proposals offered nothing as grand as the Cosmos plan.
But, three years after the proposal was first submitted to the state of New York via the Empire Development Corp., the Cosmos are still calling the stadium at Hofstra University home. And it appears to be taking its toll.
Especially this year, after the Cosmos -- in keeping with their legendary pedigree -- have won championships in two of the last three seasons. But the crowds are not coming. The weather this year has been a huge factor. It was cold, rainy and generally miserable on the first day of May, and even a shiny new stadium won’t change that, but going to a new place with all the amenities, nice comfortable seats, a variety of food and a good atmosphere makes going out in this kind of weather more pleasant.
There appears to be some movement on the stadium issue. Late last year, the state asked the Cosmos and the others who have an interest in the site at Belmont Park to update their proposals.
Last week, a handful of protesters led by State Legislator Carrié Solages (D), whose district includes Elmont, where Belmont Park is located, voiced opposition to the Cosmos proposal. Solages' reasoning is that the New York area could not support a soccer stadium of that size, and she doubts the benefits of the project to the community.
Cosmos CEO Erik Stover issued a statement following the protests. “The Elmont area is in desperate need of economic development. Crime is rising, stores are closing and foreclosures continue to plague the community. If approved, our privately-funded project will have a massive economic impact in the area.”
Sure, some may say the Cosmos play in a second division league, but the league has aspirations to continue to grow, and it’s going to need a vibrant healthy New York franchise to do that. That won’t happen without the team playing in the own stadium.
If the state doesn’t act soon, the Cosmos need to seriously think about a plan B, wherever that might be. The thought of staying at Hofstra, like the weather on Sunday, is all wet.