The New York Cosmos want to build a soccer stadium near Belmont Park as part of a $400 million mixed-use complex, a proposal that could complicate a plan to build a Major League Soccer stadium in Queens.
The Cosmos said Wednesday the team wants to build a privately financed 25,000-seat stadium on state-owned land near the Belmont Park horse-racing track. The Cosmos franchise, which rose to soccer prominence in New York during the 1970s when Brazilian star Pelé played for the team, has been searching for a site to build a stadium for months since it announced its relaunch in 2011.
Pro Soccer Nearing Net in Flushing (06/26/12)
"Over the last 18 months, we evaluated all potential sites in the New York area. They all have significant challenges and difficulties. This site was at the top of the list," said Seamus O'Brien, chairman and chief executive of the New York Cosmos.
The state issued a call for developers for two sites totaling 36 acres in Nassau County in September.
The Cosmos are proposing to build the stadium on the larger, southern site, as well as restaurants, retail space and a hotel on the northern site. The team will compete with at least one other proposal made by Related Cos. to build a shopping center and recreational space, according to people familiar with the matter.
The soccer team's proposal seems to be gaining early political momentum.
"The idea of the stadium with the retail component and the hotel is exciting," said State Sen. Jack Martins, a Nassau County Republican. "It certainly has a much greater upside [than solely retail] with the benefit to the county and state in terms of economic development and tax revenue."
If the soccer team wins the state bidding process, it wouldn't need to seek Hempstead or county approval to build on what's currently a parking lot, and would only need to clear a state environmental review process.
The stadium could open in spring 2016, according to the team.
It's too early to say whether the Cosmos' proposal would have a direct impact on Major League Soccer's plan to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens. But it does raise question whether the area could support multiple professional soccer teams.
MLS already opened the $220 million Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., in 2010. The league has been seeking to add a team to the New York area for several years to develop a rivalry with the Red Bulls.
The Cosmos brand was revived in recent years when a group of foreign businessmen bought the rights to the trademark, and since then the team has seemed a natural fit for New York and for MLS, given its historical resonance in the region.
However, discussions between MLS executives and the initial group of Cosmos owners, as well with as the current ownership group, never resulted in an agreement for rights to enter the league.
MLS is seeking as much as $100 million in expansion fees for any group that wants to own a New York team in the league.
Cosmos investors have never publicly stated a willingness to foot the bill for both a nine-figure expansion fee and for construction of a stadium. Subsequently, the group pivoted to join the second-tier North American Soccer League.
Officials with both MLS and the Cosmos insisted Wednesday the two stadiums could coexist.
"Major League Soccer continues to work with the city of New York and local elected officials on our quest to build a soccer stadium in Queens and we are making progress with the project. We are in discussions with a variety of potential ownership groups, all who are very interested in being involved with the division I soccer league in North America," a MLS spokeswoman said in a statement.
Mr. O'Brien, the Cosmos' chairman, dismissed concerns that the New York area might not be able to support three professional soccer teams.
"This city is big enough to deal with three soccer teams. In London, they've got seven or eight," he said. "I say bring it on."—Matthew Futterman and Eliot Brown contributed to this article.
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A version of this article appeared January 17, 2013, on page A22 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Cosmos Goal: New Stadium Near Belmont.