These Cities Want To Add MLS Stadiums This YearNumerous stadium projects are ongoing as new season, expansion gets closer
by Ray Marcham | Friday, January 29, 2016
Stadiums are always a fascinating issue on the MLS front, and events over the past few months have added on to that.
In Minnesota, the stadium is getting close to construction. In Orlando and Atlanta, stadiums have fallen behind schedule. In Toronto, the stadium is being expanded. In Portland, they’re trying to figure out how to get more seats in. In Miami, a site has been chosen. In Seattle, it’s new turf that is very much overdue. In New York City, it’s possible financing coming into place for a stadium of their own.
Possibly the biggest move is being made in Minnesota. There was a community meeting Tuesday night in St. Paul on Minnesota United’s Midway stadium site, where owner Bill McGuire explained his vision for the stadium and the surrounding neighborhood. If the Midway stadium can get started in the spring like McGuire hopes, and if MUFC can secure a temporary home either at Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium, then the Loons just may get into MLS in 2017, joining Atlanta United in the next round of expansion.
But the smooth path to 2017 that Atlanta United was traveling hit a speedbump in the past week. It was announced that Mercedes-Benz Stadium would not be ready in time for the start of the 2017 season, and likely would open in June. That left the possibility of AUFC having to play on the road for the first three months of the season, but the club could also play temporarily at Turner Field, which the Atlanta Braves will be leaving after the 2016 season for a new ballpark in suburban Cobb County. Whether Atlanta United plays at Turner Field, Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium or decides to wait until the new stadium is done will be determined later.
One club that thought they were moving into a new stadium this season is Orlando City. The Lions had hoped to move into their new downtown stadium in September, but OCSC announced in mid-January that they would play the entire 2016 MLS season at the Citrus Bowl due to construction at the new stadium going slower than expected. But one bit of positive stadium news for Orlando City is that the city of Orlando approved the sale of the land that the stadium is being built on. That completes the dealings to make the stadium and land completely owned by OCSC.
Meanwhile, construction to expand BMO Field in Toronto is going along with few problems. The project, which will increase the stadium capacity to over 30,000 and prepare it for the arrival of the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, is to be finished in time for Toronto FC to play they home opener on May 7. That means two months on the road for TFC, but the club went through the same situation last year, during the first phase of the BMO Field expansion. Not that it’s ideal, of course, but the Reds aren’t unfamiliar with the process.
One badly needed change that’s being done to an MLS stadium is happening in Seattle. The four-year-old turf at CenturyLink, much-hated by soccer fans but preferred by the NFL’s Seahawks, is finally being replaced. The new turf will be in place by time the Sounders host Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League on February 23, and it will be a green fans in and out of western Washington can agree on.
Also getting new turf is Portland’s Providence Park, where a two-year-old rug is being replaced with a new surface. But the big discussion this month has been possible expansion, as talk of adding up to 2,000 seats on the south end of the stadium has picked up. With a season ticket wait list of around 12,000, the need to add extra capacity to the stadium is becoming greater. But to expand the stadium, which turns 90 this year (at least this version – the original Multnomah Field was opened in 1893), the team needs permission from the city and the adjacent Multnomah Athletic Club, even though expansion would be paid for by the team. The earliest new seating likely would be ready would be 2018.
One club that may be closer to a new stadium is New York City FC. Reports surfaced this week that the New York Yankees increased their credit limit specifically to help fund a new stadium for NYCFC. There were also teasers about stadium news coming soon, which could mean the final chapters in the seemingly-endless saga of an MLS stadium somewhere in the five boroughs could finally be written.
DC United is getting a new stadium, and released new renderings of what its Buzzard Point facility may look like last week. It is very different than earlier renderings, as this was more of a traditional, four-stand look than the fully-enclosed stadium that was presented earlier. Reactions have been mixed, but, as with all stadium projects, the new look could change again before construction begins. The stadium is scheduled to open in 2018, but that could change.
Meanwhile, the new stadium for Los Angeles FC may start construction late in the year. Once the environmental assessments are complete, likely in May, and get approved, demolition of the Los Angeles Sports Arena will start. The aim is to open the stadium in time for LAFC’s 2018 debut, but that’s still up in the air.
Also up in the air, but becoming clearer, is Miami’s stadium situation. David Beckham’s group has chosen a site in the city’s Overtown neighborhood, and has shown a possibility of what the stadium may look like. The process is still ongoing, with a final design and final approval is still months away. But, much like with NYCFC, the Beckham/Miami stadium saga may, at long last, be seeing an end in sight.
But, as with all stadium situations, it may also just keep going and going. With all stadiums, past, present and future, change is constant. We just hope the change is good.