The fabled racetrack will be redeveloped by the New York Islanders, state officials revealed Tuesday.
ELMONT, New York — The Islanders are returning to Nassau County.
On Tuesday, sources confirmed to Newsday‘s Jim Baumbach that the Islanders have emerged victorious in the Belmont Park sweepstakes, beating out New York City FC for the chance to redevelop the area and build a new arena.
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to finalize the news at a press conference Wednesday.
“Governor Cuomo, my colleagues in government, and I have worked very hard to make the best use out of Belmont,” said New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). “I believe that tomorrow’s announcement will benefit Long Island and the surrounding communities.”
“The foundation has now been laid to make Belmont Park a reinvigorated economic engine for our region, which will strengthen the already existing racing industry, and make Nassau County a destination location,” said New York State Senator Elaine Phillips (R-Manhasset). “This development will create much needed job growth, contribute to economic development and enhance the business district along the Hempstead Turnpike Corridor.
The Islanders will build an 18,000-seat, year-round stadium that will host 150 events annually, as per details released by Newsday’s Baumbach. The club also plans on constructing a hotel with 200 to 250 rooms, a 10,000-foot “innovation center” and a 435,000-square foot retail complex.
The competing proposal from NYCFC would have resulted in a 26,000-foot open-air stadium, as well as a community park and soccer facility. This arena would have only been used for fútbol matches, and not year-round.
Both parties submitted their plans before the Sept. 24th deadline. According to Baumbach, Empire State Development kept them both in the dark about the decision until at least Tuesday.
Islanders owner Jon Ledecky stoked the fire when he told reporters in early December that “We have no Plan B, and we haven’t even thought about one.” He and his partners were “ready to go and all in.”
The Islanders have until January 1st to opt out of their 25-year lease with Barclays Center. Fans complained about the game-day experience, quipping about the sightlines and obstructed view seats. John Tavares, the franchise’s undisputed leader, is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Belmont move is expected to sway his decision.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is “wholly, fully, unequivocally supportive of the Belmont effort.” In an event at the Paley Center in Manhattan, he fully endorsed the team’s efforts, according to Neil Best of Newsday.
Islanders partners include the Oak View Group and Sterling Project Development. The former is run by the Mets’ Fred Wilpon, while the latter is funded by Madison Square Garden.
Belmont Park is currently utilized as the final leg of horse racing’s triple crown, as it will continue to be going forward. The hope is that the Islanders will help turn the Elmont area into a thriving economy.
New York pledges to create more than 5,500 temporary jobs, as well as about 2,000 full-time, year-round jobs. The club will work with unions to get local residents hired for construction jobs.
The proposal has been met with resistance from some local activists, such as Tammie Williams, who organized a protest because she prefers for the land to be used for “science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”
The move was met with euphoria on social media, as fans celebrated New York State’s decision.
“The past is the past, and we’re all about the future,” Ledecky said. “And we think we have something that really will galvanize the community in a very positive way.
“It will galvanize the fan base and we think it’s a tremendous opportunity for the Long Island area to have a world-class, really state-of-the-art arena.”
This story will be updated.