Photo: New York Red Bulls
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber will make the biggest mistake of his career if he locates a second New York franchise on the West Side of Manhattan. Recent reports in the New York Times suggest he favours that option.A team in such close proximity to the New York Red Bulls would halve the likely market of people willing to go see football played in the flesh.
The attendance issue is writ large at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., right now. Although the Red Bulls are on a spectacular three-game, 13-goal winning streak—with captain Thierry Henry playing the best post-Arsenal soccer he ever has—few are watching. Attendance at the 5-2 goalfest against Montreal Impact was officially 13,415; fans believe it was actually lower. (The accuracy of the Red Bulls’ reporting of its own attendance numbers has been an issue for at least a year.) The stadium’s capacity is 25,000 — which means it feels empty on matchday
Harrison may feel far from New York, but it’s actually right next door. Only four subway stops—a 20-minute ride on the PATH—separate it from Manhattan’s lower West Side, where Garber is eyeing a stadium for the new New York team, which will likely be a reincarnation of the New York Cosmos.
In other words, Garber may place the new stadium right inside the catchment area of an existing stadium that is already fighting for every supporter it can get. (Disclosure: It already got me; I’m a season ticket holder. Come on you boys in white!)
Casual fans from New York may choose to see the Cosmos play in Manhattan rather than schlep to Jersey for the Red Bulls, as they do now. The Red Bulls will likely keep their Jersey fans — potentially leaving both teams with half the attendance base the Red Bulls have now.
New York is certainly big enough for two teams. And it would be delicious to see the Red Bulls punish the Cosmos on the field for the temerity of coming back into existence. But for the Cosmos and the Red Bulls to both thrive, the Cosmos need to be in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx. Those boroughs are far enough away that going to Red Bull Arena is a real journey. Plus, they’re all closer to the Long Island market.
In other words, a Cosmos stadium in the outer Boroughs would be more likely to generate new, local fans who don’t feel like travelling to Harrison, and not ruin the attendance market around Red Bull Arena.
Unfortunately, Garber wants a team located inside New York’s “urban core,” i.e. Manhattan, which is an indicator that he has misunderstood the No.1 rule of real estate: Location, location, location.
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