The New York Cosmos soccer club that’s returning to the North American Soccer League this summer and calling Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium its first home is planning to build a $400,000 practice facility at nearby Mitchel Field, team and Nassau County officials announced Monday.
Since declaring their return to the NASL in July, the team has been working out renovation plans for the proposed training complex that will also be open to the public, except during soccer season, which runs from April to September. The team is expected to sign a 10-year lease with the county that would require them to make the necessary renovations, pending legislative approval.
“This field’s obviously in complete disrepair, it’s not really being used at all so we think it’s a very clear win-win for the citizens here and for our organization,” said Erik Stover, the Chief Operating Officer for the Cosmos. “We’re going to be renovating it at our cost, [while] not asking for any taxpayer money and there will be some permitted use for citizens.”
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano touted the plans as his administration’s third public-private partnership for a park unveiled since January. He held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $15 million ice rink in Eisenhower Park in January and last month the legislature approved a deal with Molloy College in which the school will invest $1.3 million to renovate Mitchel Field’s baseball fields in exchange for a use permit.
“Nassau County is becoming a sports-entertainment destination that attracts tourism dollars to our region,” Mangano said.
The Cosmos began play in 1971, winning five Soccer Bowls while attracting such stars as Pelé, the legendary Footballer of the Century who played for the team until his 1977 retirement and now serves as its honorary president. Both the team and the league dissolved in the early ’80s.
Cosmos Chairman Seamus O’Brien said the idea of restoring the field “is going to benefit the Long Island community tremendously.”
Carlos Mendes, a defensive player for the Cosmos who previously played for the New York Red Bulls, is excited to see his new team re-establish its roots in his native Long Island. The team has proposed building a $400 million privately funded, 25,000-seat stadium near Belmont Park racetrack in Elmont.
“I grew up here, so this is my backyard,” said Mendes. “It’s a great facility [and] I think that to have the Cosmos back and to be a part of the tradition, I’m just very honored and excited to get going.”
Stover said the plans have been well received, although they still have a lot of work to do between their debut season tickets going on sale Friday and their first match with their former rivals, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, at Hofstra on Aug. 3. It will be their first rematch in nearly 30 years.
“People have such good feelings about the Cosmos from the 70s and 80s,” he said. “The organization really started here, so we’re very confident that the community is going to support us. We plan to be an active member of the community.”