Brooklyn Football Club today confirmed what was long suspected: When the team launches in USL League One in 2025, it will play home matches at Maimonides Park, Coney Island’s minor league baseball stadium that’s long been home to New York Mets minor league affiliate the Brooklyn Cyclones.
As Hudson River Blue first reported in November, Brooklyn FC had an agreement in principle on a home stadium that was pending approvals related specifically to the field’s surface. Matt Rizzetta, chairman and founder of the North Sixth Group that’s behind the launch of Brooklyn Football Club, confirmed the turf at Maimonides Park has now received the necessary approvals from the U.S. Soccer Federation and the USL.
In a new interview with HRB about the club’s now-official home venue, Rizzetta said “We had our eyes set on Maimonides Park since we started the project. We want to make sure the club has a great home and can provide a great experience. We looked at other options that were interesting, but would require too much in the form of renovations or upgrades, and we felt it would distract us from being able to focus our efforts and resources toward just building a great club. Coney Island really provides us the ability to do that.”
Rizzetta also confirmed that Brooklyn FC will be making big changes to the layout of the pitch at Maimonides Park from its days hosting the New York Cosmos, says the club plans to eventually launch a professional women’s team that will compete in the new USL Super League, and said Brooklyn FC’s long-term planning has included preliminary conversations with New York City officials and private developers about potential, hypothetical future soccer-specific stadium developments at two unnamed locations in Brooklyn.
Won’t be like Cosmos Country
The now-dormant New York Cosmos played part of their 2015 season, and all of their 2017 season at Brooklyn FC’s future home, what was then MCU Park.
Rizzetta says the field’s layout will look and feel very different from what it looked like in its Cosmos days. The NASL club tore down the pitching mound for home matches, but Rizzetta says Brooklyn FC is “Going to leave the mound up. We’ve reconfigured the pitch so that we’re able to work around the mound.”
The process of tearing down the mound, according to Rizzetta, was both costly and too restrictive for the field access the new club wants to offer. Rizzetta says the club has a few different potential field layouts it is still evaluating, but could not yet confirm the exact soccer layout the team will be using come 2025.
Brooklyn FC match attendees can expect chances to get up close and personal with the field and the match itself, with Rizzetta saying “We are going to maximize a lot of the space around the field. There will be areas utilized for fan engagement, fan experiences, for VIPs, and for field access stuff, to experience a pro match from the field itself.”
About that turf…
That Maimonides Park field itself: It’s synthetic FieldTurf, and has been since 2012, due in part to the devastating effect Superstorm Sandy had on the stadium and Coney Island.
Turf is frequently a controversial playing surface for soccer players and followers of the sport, a lightning rod for debate and criticism. Rizzetta says he and his management team “discussed ad nauseam” the potential downsides of playing on turf, and also analyzed data and performance metric trends for players on turf compared to players on grass.
That analysis and turf deep-dive, which Rizzetta says was conducted in conjunction with the network of lower-tier European clubs he and his investment partners co-own, “made us feel comfortable.”
“If we had a solution that was an outdoor natural grass solution in the borough, would we have chosen it? Maybe? But we felt this was the best option,” said Rizzetta. “When we studied the data and the history, we felt comfortable moving forward. We don’t feel like this will be a risk for player injuries or performance or stamina or fatigue or otherwise, we feel confident in that.”
Rizzetta also says Brooklyn FC will be making “tweaks and upgrades to the playing surface, which includes some field overlays,” though he could not share specifics yet as to how those changes and overlays will work.
Longer-term plans: USL Super League, soccer stadium search?
The announcement of Brooklyn FC’s move to Maimonides Park referred to it as a multi-year agreement. Rizzetta would not confirm the length of the club’s lease to utilize the Coney Island baseball stadium, but he did hint at some of the longer-term planning the yet-to-play club has already conducted.
By “long-term,” Rizzetta specified he’s talking the year 2027 and beyond, but he says part of that long-term plan includes entry into women’s soccer.
Brooklyn FC is close to publicly announcing that it will be adding a professional women’s team that will compete in the USL Super League, with official announcement likely to arrive sometime in early February.
The USL Super League will begin its first season this August, and represents an ambitious effort by the USL to challenge the NWSL as the top domestic women’s soccer league. The USL Super League said that it is seeking Division One sanctioning from the U.S. Soccer Federation, which would put it on the same competitive level as NWSL. The USL Super League is also planning to stick to the “European calendar” for its schedule of matches, which differs from domestic leagues like MLS and the NWSL, which don’t play through the winter’s coldest months.
While mentioning the plans to bring a Brooklyn women’s team to life, Rizzetta said “When you talk about things like that, that leads to larger conversations around new stadium developments and projects.”
Brooklyn Football Club are involved in at least preliminary talks and searches for an eventual, hypothetical place to build their own soccer specific stadium in the borough. Here is the entirety of what Brooklyn FC principal owner Matt Rizzetta said about the club’s potential stadium site search:
“We’ve had preliminary conversations with city officials, with private developers, and there are a couple of areas in Brooklyn we’ve identified on a preliminary basis as potential solutions for new constructions or new developments.”
“That’s really interesting to us long-term, but the good news is that we don’t feel under any level of pressure to make that happen, so I think we feel really comfortable and confident that we have a home in Maimonides Park for many years to come. But if something should materialize before then, in the form of a new development, a soccer specific stadium where maybe you also do concerts, nothing crazy, a 10,000-15,000 seat venue, ideally would be done in collaboration with the city in some sort of public-private partnership, that could be very interesting.”
We’ve already had some initial conversations and identified some preliminary locations for that, but we’re talking many years away at this point. It’s interesting, we’ll certainly explore those as we get the project off the ground, but the good news is, we don’t feel like there’s any need or urgency, because we have a great home here in Coney Island for many years to come.”
Maimonides Park as a home
While some New York-area soccer fans may balk at another baseball stadium playing host to a professional soccer team, there are undeniable upsides for Brooklyn FC’s new home venue.
It is in an iconic, well-known, photogenic location right in the heart of Coney Island’s busiest strip. The stadium is hugely accessible by public transportation via multiple subway and bus lines, and it’s also close to a number of major highways for those who choose to drive.
Does any of that mean Brooklyn FC will be able to out-draw the New York Cosmos?
The Cosmos last played a season at the Coney Island baseball stadium in 2017 and averaged 4,789 fans per home match, according to Soccer Stadium Digest. The venue can hold 7,000-7,500 fans, but Rizzetta has spoken of a goal to make Brooklyn FC into a global brand, which he says aligns with the internationally-recognized nature of Coney Island as a destination.
He also says of past lessons learned from the Cosmos calling Maimonides Park home, “We learned from the Cosmos, some things we’re going to do differently or optimize, but the Cosmos also did a lot right in our estimation, and we’re going to learn from that as well. We’re honored to be carrying the tradition of Brooklyn football forward and doing it in the form of a professional team born in Brooklyn that’s an expansion franchise. Our club really wants to really make sure our roots and identity and birthplace is Brooklyn.”