Last night in Flushing Meadows, Queens, Major League Soccer held what they trumpeted as a “town hall meeting” on the proposed stadium for the team they hope to put in the New York market. Don Garber spoke at the event, laying out a myriad of benefits for the community while a receptive crowd whooped and cheered. By all appearances, it was a good night for MLS. But sometimes appearances lie. Per one report, MLS manipulated the event, making it less of a “town hall meeting” and more of a carefully staged “pep rally.”
The @MLStoQueens Twitter account painting a rosy picture of the crowd response to Don Garber’s comments. The commissioner talked stadium details (25,000 capacity expandable up to 35,000 without an increase in footprint) and economic impact.
— MLS to Queens (@MLStoQueens) December 5, 2012
Garber reiterated the league’s contention that all grassy space consumed by construction would be replaced (and more), as well as outlining the plan to refurbish soccer fields before construction on the stadium begins.
Which all sounds great. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people who oppose an MLS stadium in Queens. They likely have very good reasons for doing so, and since last night’s event was advertised as a “town hall meeting” with all that implies, they attended in the hopes of putting hard questions to the MLS brass.
MLS, or the PR firm operating the event on their behalf, had different ideas.
Via the Queens Ledger:
The town hall meeting took place in two separate rooms. The theater was primarily full of supporters and MLS officials. The other room was in the basement of the building in which a live video feed was showing attendees what was going on upstairs.
Those in the basement were not given the opportunity to ask questions directly to MLS officials.
Anna Dioguardi, director of community development at Queens Community House, was there to protest the new stadium, but said she couldn’t get into the main room.
“Others were told that if they did not have reserved seats that they could not go upstairs,” she said.
Geoffrey Croff, president of New York City Park Advocates, said that while MLS representatives were taking information at the door, they were also asking for an individual’s opinion of the proposed stadium.
“This is clearly not a town hall meeting,” he said. “It is a pep rally sponsored, bought, paid for by Major League Soccer.”
This not a good look for Major League Soccer, whether you like the idea of a team in Queens or not.