Yankee Stadium. Kids playing sandlot games, stick ball and little league step up to home plate and imagine belting one out of this park. Next year, kids playing soccer will be able to imagine scoring goals in this same place. It’s no secret that NYCFC, New York City’s newest MLS team, will begin playing here for the 2015 season. What the management of both teams state is that there is no time limit on the arrangement that had reportedly been set at three years.
On the one side of the dais at Monday’s press conference sat the members of NYCFC’s staff: head coach Jason Kreis, Director of Football Operations Claudio Reyna and NYCFC Chief Business Officer Tim Pernetti. Not surprisingly, they are excited at the opportunity to inaugurate their 2015 season at Yankee Stadium. ”I’m incredibly excited to be at Yankee Stadium,” said Tim Pernetti. “Thrilled to have Mariano Rivera here. Thrilled about the partnership.”
“We hope some of their winning traditions rub off on us,” said Claudio Reyna.
“I’m thinking today I have a pretty charmed life,” added head coach Jason Kreis.
Wait a second. Mariano Rivera? Today NYCFC season plans go on sale, and he is the honorary first season ticket holder. “I’m a closer, so I’m used to being the last one. I’m a starter now,” he joked. “Soccer was and is still my number one game. Baseball just got in between.”
Joking aside, the New York Yankees side of the stage was much more restrained in their enthusiasm. They were more practical, their feet on an earth that is a baseball diamond. One that will be converted when needed into a soccer field. The practicalities of doing this, for all their assurances of their ability to do it, are questionable. Chief Operating Officer of the New York Yankees, Lonn Trost, described the process of converting that diamond into a soccer field. It will take three days on either side of a match to convert it to a pitch that measures 110 yards by 70 yards and back again. The pitcher’s mound, which they had hoped to keep in place but will need to move, will be set on a plate that can be lifted on and off in a day long process. Glow lights will be used on the grass overnights to keep it growing and regenerating from the extra use.
Yankee Stadium currently seats 49,642 fans. That number will be reduced for soccer, with upper sections and the grandstand closed off, eliminating 16,198 seats. The final number that Trost gave — 33,444 — is, he says, closer to the capacity of a soccer specific arena. He let no doubt exist as to who the stadium belongs to. “It was, is and always be Yankee Stadium,” he stated. “Seventeen or so games here. We can work it in.” Major League Baseball’s season planning begins in the late summer and finalizes in December.
President of the New York Yankees Randy Levine was as blunt as you would expect the man in charge of this team to be: “They know we know what we are doing.” He stated that the arrangement “will last until it doesn’t last. I think it is pretty clear that we’re not going to change the baseball.” Basically that this is the home of NYCFC until it isn’t. Tim Pernetti agrees. “Our goal is to be in a soccer specific stadium as soon as possible.”
“I think that the most under-rated thing in sports is the fan experience,” he adds. “We are committed to a soccer specific stadium.”