Borough President Markowitz wants to bring professional soccer to Brooklyn — but making his plan a reality will be more difficult than scoring a goal over a wall of German national team defenders, soccer insiders say.
The neighboring borough of Queens has the inside track on luring a Major League Soccer team, and backers who have already laid down $3 million to bring a stadium to Flushing Meadows Corona Park claim they aren’t even considering a Brooklyn franchise at the moment.
“We’re 100 percent committed to Major League Soccer in Queens,” said MLS soccer spokeswoman Risa Heller, who claims the league scoured many sites around the city before settling on the county to north, which it calls “unquestionably one of the most vibrant soccer communities in the country.”
But that hasn’t stopped Markowitz from pushing Brooklyn as a counter proposal if the Queens plan — which calls for turning 10–13 acres of parkland into a 25,000-seat stadium — hits the post.
And even if the proposed $300-million Flushing Meadows stadium becomes home to a relaunched New York Cosmos club, the Beep claims Brooklyn would be the perfect home for a third metro area squad (the New York Red Bulls claim to represent the city, though they play in a neighboring state called New Jersey).
“As much as we like football or baseball or hockey, the way America is going with our ethnic diversity, soccer will be potentially as large as football,” said Markowitz, noting there are great locations for a stadium in Bushwick, Brownsville, East New York, or Canarsie. “Why shouldn’t Brooklyn be at the forefront of that effort and have truly a world class soccer stadium?”
And unlike the Queens stadium, which could face opposition due to its proposed location inside a park, Markowitz says a Brooklyn soccer facility could be built on private property, though he declined to name specific locations.
“Parcels would have to be assembled, no question about it,” Markowitz said. “But there are spaces available — none of which involve parkland.”
Even Brooklyn soccer boosters say Queens makes more sense — but claim Brooklyn could court a lesser tier domestic soccer league than the MLS.
“There’s more of every level of soccer being played in Queens at this moment,” said Zac Rubin, the manager of the Upper 90, a soccer store in Boerum Hill who works with pro teams in the U.S. and abroad. “Queens is the right place for a team to be at this point.”
But Markowitz is undeterred, saying that though he will leave office soon, perhaps he can plants the seeds of a long term project.
“I have a philosophy with a restaurant, if you cook great they will come no matter where it is,” he said. “If we could build a world-class stadium, I’m convinced that major team will be easier part to resolve.”
Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. Follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.