League eyes Flushing park for soccer stadium project

League eyes Flushing park for soccer stadium project
By Joe Anuta

A nationwide soccer league is hoping to build a new stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which already has some lawmakers cheering.

Major League Soccer, which currently oversees 19 teams across the country, is looking to anchor another franchise in New York City, according to a spokeswoman.

“We are thrilled about the prospect of being in Queens and bringing the world’s sport to the world’s park,” she said. “We are in exploratory discussions with the city and with Queens officials and look forward to working with the community to build a world-class soccer facility for all to enjoy.”

The proposed stadium would hold between 20,000 to 25,000 people, about half the capacity of Citi Field, and would be at the current site of the Pool of Industry, a dilapidated fountain from the 1964 World’s Fair in the northeast section of the park.

Any proposal to build a stadium there would need to go through the city’s land review procedure, which involves a vote in the City Council. But because the site is also on parkland, legislation allowing the construction would need to be drafted on the state level.

And one lawmaker already knows which team he is rooting for.

“It’s a win-win for Queens,” said state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), who is such an avid soccer fan that he has traveled 15 times to see his favorite team, the European soccer club FC Barcelona.

Moya, of Ecuadorian descent, is not alone in his love for the game, he said.

“Take a poll and you will see that soccer is the No. 1 sport people play, watch, live and breathe in this area,” he said, referring to neighborhoods like Corona and Jackson Heights with large Latino populations.

Other neighborhoods in the borough housing enclaves of European immigrants, like Astoria and Woodside, are also home to avid soccer fans. As proof, Moya referenced a one-time game between Greece and Ecuador held at Citi Field that sold out in a day.

As part of the agreement being floated around to lawmakers on both the city and state levels, the league would also spruce up several existing soccer fields in the park for public use, would refurbish some of the aging buildings in the park and by state law would be required to build an equivalent amount of parkland somewhere else in the five boroughs, according to sources familiar with the project.

The league has been eyeing the area formerly known as the Flushing Airport. It is a large swath of land in College Point behind the neighborhood’s corporate park, sources said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.