The Long Island Rough Riders soccer team on Thursday offered to build Suffolk County Community College a 5,000-seat artificial turf soccer stadium at the school’s Brentwood campus for a new minor league franchise it wants to establish.
Peter Zaratin, Rough Riders president, in a nearly half-hour presentation before college trustees proposed to build an $8 million to $10 million soccer complex at no cost to the college, in return for a 40-year lease in a public-private partnership. He added the team is willing to participate in an unspecified revenue-sharing arrangement for tickets, food and retail sales.
The proposal is to expand the Rough Riders, established 1993, from a collegiate-level player-development team to add a United Soccer League franchise, the equivalent of a Triple A minor league baseball team. That team would play 15 home games on campus. The player-development team, which has seven home games a year, now plays at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington.
“We are looking to be a feeder for Major League Soccer,” Zaratin said, adding, “Long Island does not have the demographics for a major-league team.”
Joining Zaratin at the meeting were his partner, Mitchell Rechler of Rechler Equity Partners, who is personally investing in the project. Also involved is David Howard, a former president of MSG Sports, which ran the business operations of Madison Square Garden, and one-time executive of the New York Mets.
Zaratin said the arrangement could raise the profile of the college and the school would benefit from extra space from fan suites that could also be used as classrooms. He said those spaces could be used for training in areas like sports management, training and medicine as well as TV sports production.
He also said the school would be able to use the new soccer field for soccer and other sports like lacrosse and field hockey when the Rough Riders are not playing, practicing or running sports camps. Zaratin estimated the school would have use of the fields for 55 percent of the year, while the team would need the facilities the rest of the time, most of it when the college is not in session.
Trustees raised concerns about whether the school would be required to put the proposal out to a competitive bid, whether there would be restrictions with the school’s existing food-service contract and whether there is enough parking.
“We need an intense parking study,” said Paul Pontieri, a trustee who also is mayor of Patchogue village, where parking has become an increasing problem with downtown revitalization. “I come from a village where parking is a problem and the issue is where do we go next,” he said. Team officials said games usually attract about 2,500 fans, but most occur at night or on weekends when there are no classes.
Zaratin said the timeline is tight, but was not more specific. Later, he said the team would like to get an “expression of interest” from the college to move forward by the end of the coming spring so the first phase of construction could be completed in about a year.
Louis Petrizzo, the college general counsel, said the team initially approached the college about a use of facilities lease that might not be subject to competitive bid. The deal could become more complicated, given the extent of the improvements.
“We can’t make a determination until we know what is involved here,” he said.