The New York Islanders’ Belmont Park bid is the first step in a process that is expected to take months to complete.
The wait is finally over. After months of speculation, the state’s request for proposals (RFP) for the land adjacent to Belmont Park were made public on Monday. The New York Islanders are expected to submit a bid.
Basically, the state is seeking a proposal that will maximize tax revenue, be environmentally friendly and benefit the Elmont community, according to Robert Brodsky of Newsday. There was an RFP that was scrapped just last year because none of the proposals satisfied the aformentioned guidelines.
“The goal of the RFP is to strengthen Belmont as a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality on Long Island,” Robert Williams, chairman of the Franchise Oversight Board, told Newsday.
All bids are due by September 28; it’s unclear how many proposals will be submitted before that deadline. The RFP was written in such a way that it should attract a host of potential bidders, said Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-LB).
When the Islanders, as expected, submit a bid, they’ll likely face vehement opposition. They’ll have to explain, among other things, how they’ll bolster the surrounding community while not increasing traffic along the Cross Island Parkway and Hempstead Turnpike.
But perhaps the largest opposition will come from the Long Island Association, headed by Keith Law. The LIA has been steadfast in its support of the renovated Nassau Coliseum, so they’ll likely grill the Islanders on a very important question: How on earth can two arenas within ten miles of each other survive?
It’s unclear how the Isles, who are co-owned by Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, will respond.
Fans likely remember the hurdles that former owner Charles Wang had to cross just to get the Town of Hempstead to listen to his Lighthouse Project. Kate Murray, the former town supervisor, infamously cited the large scope of the proposal as a reason to kill the pitch.
This time, however, there’s reason to be optimistic.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in April that although the Islanders were “reviewing their options,” they would be “participating in” the RFP.
“I believe that everyone thinks there is a terrific opportunity there, if not at Willets Point, to create a more hockey friendly environment for the Islanders, which is something [Islanders co-owner] Scott [Malkin] is committed to do,” Bettman told the Associated Press.
The Islanders are being advised by the Oak View Group, a sports arena development company that is backed by Madison Square Garden. The club has been seeking a new home as a result of mutual dissatisfaction between both parties involved — Barclays Center and the Islanders.
According to multiple sources, the Islanders are disgruntled with the ice conditions and in-arena experiences (fans have complained of obstructed view seats and a stadium designed for basketball); Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates Barclays Center, is unhappy with the lack of revenue that the hockey team is generating.
Despite a so-called “ironclad” 25-year lease, either side can notify the other of their decision to opt out of the deal after January 1, 2018. Until then, they are expected to engage in “good faith” discussions over the terms.
In recent days, the Islanders’ arena situation has been complicated by the news of Mikhail Prokhorov’s personal uncertainty. Prokhorov, who owns both Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, “has warmed recently to the possibility of offering a controlling slice to the team,” writes the NY Post’s Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis.
While the implications of Prokhorov’s impending sale aren’t clear, there’s one thing for certain: this whirlwind of activity isn’t about to go away. In the words of Newsday writer Randi Marshall, the RFP for Belmont is just the beginning of the process, not the end.