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New York City FC forced to play home games at Red Bull Arena once again

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New York City FC’s lack of a full-time stadium has once again come under the spotlight with the Major League Soccer team being forced to stage further games at the home of bitter rivals New York Red Bulls.

Earlier this year, NYCFC played two home games at Red Bull Arena, in Harrison, New Jersey, in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, a move which angered club supporters.

This situation arose due to NYCFC’s home venue Yankee Stadium – primarily the home of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees – and occasional stadium Citi Field not being available due to winterization and construction, as well as other venues in the New York area being rejected by regional governing body Concacaf.

NYCFC chief executive Brad Sims told SportBusiness in March: “I feel the pain and our staff feels the pain of our fans. They are very hungry and anxious to have a permanent home and so are we. Playing games at Red Bull Arena doesn’t give us a higher sense of urgency [to build a permanent stadium], we had maximum urgency before that.”

However, NYCFC has now been forced to play home games at Red Bull Arena yet again this year after MLS announced plans to resume play in home markets following the conclusion of the MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Florida.

The main reason for this is Yankee Stadium is unavailable to secondary tenants NYCFC due to Covid-19 health and safety protocols that prevent other events in MLB stadiums during the baseball season.

It means NYCFC will play their home games during Phase 1 and Phase 2 of MLS’s return to play at Red Bull Arena. During Phase 1, those home games will be against Columbus Crew (August 24), Chicago Fire (August 29) and FC Cincinnati (September 12).

Fans will not be permitted to attend any Phase 1 games at Red Bull Arena. The schedule for Phase 2 will be announced by MLS in the coming weeks.

NYCFC will be able to play home games at Yankee Stadium following the conclusion of the New York Yankees’ season, though this depends on how far the team goes in the MLB postseason.

Sims said in a statement: “We conducted a thorough review of potential venues with our first choice always being to play home games within the Five Boroughs, however due to league Covid-19 protocols, Red Bull Arena was the best choice for us at this time. We look forward to returning to our home at Yankee Stadium when we are able to.”

In February, the New York Times reported that NYCFC’s majority owners City Football Group, a group of local developers, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and various other bodies were nearing a deal that would allow the team to build a privately-financed, 25,000-seat stadium in the South Bronx.

The planned facility would be part of a $1bn mixed-use development project that would also include a school, hotel, retail stores, a waterfront park and affordable housing units near Yankee Stadium.

According to the report, the earliest NYCFC could move into the new stadium would be 2024. However, no deal has been reached and discussions remain ongoing.

Sims told SportBusiness: “The stadium is our No.1 challenge, our No.1 priority. It’s not a new situation, we’re in year six of the club now, and we’re still working through it. It’s well documented that we’re playing in multiple venues.”