MLS Commissioner Don Garber
It’s Queens spoke with Major League Soccer Commissioner and Queens native Don Garber about the league’s vision for a pro soccer franchise and new stadium in the borough.
Don Garber is no stranger to Queens. The commissioner of Major League Soccer was born and raised in Flushing, where his grandfather owned a store on Main Street. He went to John Bowne High School, and his first job after graduating from college was in Woodside. You could say that the borough has made him what he is today, and now is he looking to give something back.
Earlier this year, Garber and MLS made the surprising announcement that the league wanted to bring “The World’s Game” to the most ethnically diverse borough in the country. Garber unveiled plans to bring a professional soccer franchise to Queens, which would play in a brand new stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, constructed on top of the Pool of Industry, a relic from the 1964 World’s Fair. The new stadium would be surrounded by immigrant communities from Latin America, Europe, and Asia, where soccer – or football, as they would know it – is wildly popular.
While the stadium is still in the planning stages and much more needs to be worked out before professional soccer is a reality in Queens, Garber and MLS are determined to see the sport gain a foothold in the borough. It’s Queens recently interviewed Garber about why he thinks a soccer franchise would succeed in Queens, his time as commissioner, and about growing up in the borough.
It’s Queens: When did the idea for bringing a MLS franchise to Queens first originate, and when did you realize that this might actually be a possibility?
Don Garber: It has long been a dream of ours to have a team in New York. About a year and a half ago we put a team together to work with us to find a location for a stadium in New York and we are thrilled about the prospect of bringing professional soccer to Queens.
IQ: What is it about Queens that you think would make it a successful place for a MLS team?
DG: In addition to being close to transit and being physically suitable, one of the key pieces we looked for was finding a place where our neighbors are passionate about soccer. It became very clear to us very quickly that Flushing Meadows was a perfect home for soccer.
IQ: How involved is MLS in the local community in other cities that have franchises?
DG: Very. One of the things that sets MLS apart and the sport apart is that we are deeply involved in the communities that we play in. Our non-profit arm, MLS W.O.R.K.S. addresses important social issues and serves as a platform for the League and our team’s philanthropic programs.
IQ: Is there any truth to the rumors that David Beckham could be a part-owner of a team in Queens?
DG: No. David has been an important part of Major League Soccer during the last six seasons as a player and ambassador, and we hope to have him continue as an owner of an MLS expansion club someday. However, his agreement with MLS does not allow him to exercise his expansion option for New York City.
DG: When David arrived in MLS he stated loudly that he wanted to help grow the interest and popularity of MLS and soccer in America and win championships with the LA Galaxy. He accomplished all of those things and contributed greatly to a period of tremendous growth for the League. MLS today is far more credible, valuable and well positioned globally today than it was when he joined the League in 2007.
IQ: Lastly, are there any fond memories you have of growing up in Queens you would like to share, and how big would it be personally to bring a MLS franchise to the borough you grew up in?
DG: I have countless fond memories of growing up in Queens. My grandparents came to this country and they moved to Queens and it is where I spent the majority of my childhood. My grandparents settled in Flushing, my grandfather had a store on Main Street, my mother and my grandmother taught public school in Flushing, I went to John Bowne High School and my first job after college was in Woodside. Very importantly I know when my grandparents came here they probably could never have dreamed that a kid from Queens could be fulfilling our dream of having this great game having a
home in Queens.
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