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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The New York Cosmos were the flagship team in the original North American Soccer League (NASL) that existed from 1968 until 1984. When the Cosmos signed Pelé in 1975, the league became an overnight sensation and the Cosmos had three seasons averaging over 40,000 fans at old Giants Stadium. Unfortunately, the league revenues could not keep up with rapidly rising player salaries and the league eventually folded, but not before soccer had a foothold in the USA.
Fast forward to 2009. With MLS no longer a niche sport, there was a need for a more professional second-tier league to fill the space between the MLS and the United Soccer League’s first division. Seven teams left USL First Division and were joined by two other clubs to form a new league, which was dubbed the NASL in honor of the league that pioneered the sport in North America.
The league began play in 2011 without a team in New York, but that was rectified midway through the 2013 season when the New York Cosmos, using the team’s original name and logo, finally took to the field at James M. Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University. The Cosmos were immediately successful, winning the fall campaign and then the Soccer Bowl to bring soccer glory back to New York.
Interestingly, the original Cosmos used Shuart Stadium for two seasons in 1972-73 when it was known as Hofstra Stadium. The venue has undergone two renovations since that time, but remains a simple university facility, used mostly for lacrosse, with the New York Lizards of the MLL also calling it home.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are concession stands around the ground, serving little more than your typical fare. On the west side of the stadium is a stand selling turkey legs for $6, while underneath the eastern stands you can find Premio Sausage with Peppers for $7. The Niman Ranch stand near the main gate offers a pulled pork sandwich for $7. That's about it for specialty items. Other options include chicken fingers and fries for $9, (fries alone are $5), beef hot dogs for $4, cheese pizza for $6 (add $1 for pepperoni), and hamburgers for $5.
Bottles of Coke and water are $4, the same price for a 22 oz. fountain soda, with 32 oz. costing a buck more (Pepsi products in this case).
Beer is $6 at the aforementioned Niman Ranch spot, and you need to drink it inside the stand's perimeter, as alcohol is not allowed in the seating area.
The stadium is completely uncovered with a few box seats in front of the suites/press box area on the western side of the stadium. The rest of the seats are benches, but it's soccer, so you won't get too uncomfortable during the two hours you are there. The team fills just over half the seats, so you can sit where you want as there are no ushers checking tickets. Higher up is better with rows 12 and above my preference. Sit down too low along the sides and you will have a fence in your way as well as people walking to and from their seats.
The sections start at 1 at the southwest corner (inside Gate C) and go up as they make their way around the stadium, finishing at 27. The team benches are on the west side of the field with the Cosmos' bench in front of section 3.
The field markings are confusing at first as the white lines correspond to lacrosse, while it is the yellow lines for soccer. You'll figure it out quickly enough when a player dribbles outside the white line and no whistle is blown. The center circle is covered before the game with the Cosmos' logo, only to have that removed to reveal the Hofstra H.
There are Cosmos Girls who welcome the team to the field, perform at halftime and run in front of the supporters sections (behind the north goal) after every home team score.
Music is also played after the goals and during halftime using a very poor speaker system that is too loud and makes the music sound tinny. I don't know why we need music to pass 15 minutes when I'd rather just enjoy the open air in relative quiet.
Overall, this is a nice place to spend a weekend afternoon, particularly when the weather is still cool and breezy. In the summer, it might get a bit hotter and sunnier, so slap on the sunscreen and bring a hat and sunglasses.
Hofstra's campus is nice enough, and the Nassau Coliseum is just across the street, but you're going to need a car to explore this area.
If you're an aviation buff, the Cradle of Aviation Museum is just a mile away in Garden City. Considered one of the top aviation museums in the country, it was built on the site of the former Mitchel and Roosevelt Field airfields (Roosevelt Field is where Charles Lindbergh departed New York en route to Paris in 1927). Serious museum aficionados can enjoy Nassau's "Museum District" in Roslyn Harbor, about 10 miles north, while the Roosevelt Field Mall is just two miles away if you want to get some shopping done before the game.
In terms of bars and restaurants, there are a number of chains on Fulton Avenue such as Chipotle and McDonalds that are within walking distance.
There are three supporters groups that take up sections 13 and 14 behind the north goal and keep their chanting going throughout the game along with banners and even a fire extinguisher that is shot off as kickoff approaches. Other than that, the fans are mostly families with many youngsters on hand. It's a quiet, respectful crowd that knows the game well enough and cheers at the appropriate time. The stadium may not be full, but these fans do well for a second-tier team that is difficult to get to.
If you are without a car in New York City and want to get out to the Shuart Stadium, it can be done by public transit, but it will take a long time, especially on the weekend when the subway is always operating under a varied schedule due to track repair and construction. If you are in Manhattan, the quickest option is to take the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Penn Station to Mineola. It's about a 40-minute ride each way and $8 for an off-peak ticket at the machines. Don't pay on-board, as it is significantly more expensive. At Mineola, you can board a free shuttle straight to the stadium that takes about 10 minutes, so in total you can be there from New York City in an hour.
If you have a transit card that allows unlimited rides, you can get there for free. Take the F train to the penultimate stop at 169th Street and switch to the n6X or n6 bus. This route will drop you at Hempstead Terminal where you can pick up one of the n70, n71, or n72 buses that ply the Hempstead Turnpike. Get off at California Avenue and walk one minute to the stadium.
If you are driving, Shuart Stadium is still painful to get to, with the best route from Manhattan likely the 495 to Northern State Parkway, switching to the Meadowbrook State Parkway and getting off at Hempstead Turnpike. Parking is $10 for the two lots closest to the stadium on the south side of the street, while $5 will get you a spot across the Turnpike. From there you can take a pedestrian bridge over the busy road and arrive at the stadium. There is free street parking in the residential areas across from Nassau Coliseum, which is not that far away.
Inside, there is no concourse per se, as the walkways are underneath the two main stands with a large plaza area at the south end of the stadium. No problem getting around as the team draws around 2/3 of capacity. Washrooms are not plentiful, but there is no problem accessing them. Soccer is a relatively short game and most fans watch the entire match without a break.
Tickets start at $15 for end line seats, which will have you sitting in the north end, next to the supporters, who have their own GA ticket category known as the Five Points (also $15). Sideline seats facing the goal are $25, while $35 gets you seats at the Center Circle. People with lots of money and no sense can pay $95 to sit in the club seats. All seats also have a $1 stadium fee added to them. There are discounts for military and students, so make sure to mention that if you belong to either group.
If you are attending with your family, which conveniently has 4 people in it, try the Family Pack, which comes with four seats and $20 in concession credit, starting at $68.
Given that there are no ushers at all, I recommend that you buy the $15 option and sit along the sidelines, which are usually quite empty.
There is a new plaque honoring Pele that was unveiled before the opening game of the 2014 season. As well, a Pele wax figure from Madame Tussauds has been set up for pictures.
The ticket includes the team logo and the championships won by both the original club and the 2013 squad and a free program gives a brief recap of the 2013 season and the club's rebirth.
There are other statues and retired jerseys around, but these belong to Hofstra and really can't be called extras for the Cosmos.
The Cosmos are planning a new soccer-only stadium with a capacity of 25,000 that they hope to have open in 2016. Government approval is still pending though, so there is no guarantee it will be built. In the meantime, Shuart Stadium is an adequate venue for the NASL and worth a visit for any serious fan of the beautiful game.
Member Review by wikipuff on Jun 01, 2014
As a student at Hofstra, I love it. Since there is no football team, this is kind of the defacto football team. It is nice to able to go to games that are 5 minutes from my dorm room. the food is horrible, (also it is what I eat on a daily basis) so to me, its bland. the neighborhood isn't the safest, especially at night. The fans are great, the games are fun, win or lose. I speak more spanish from going to the Cosmos games then I did from 2 years of spanish in school. Hope to see the soccer bowl lifted at Hofstra sometime soon.
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