It’s official. The New York Islanders have been awarded the rights to redeveloping the Belmont Park area. It’s something that’s eluded the Cosmos.
On Wednesday morning, the New York Islanders will officially celebrate that they beat out NYCFC to get development rights at Belmont Park and build an 18,000 seat arena. The winning bid also includes the right to build a hotel, retail space, and an “innovation center” that will get input from the residents on its development. The Islanders could also use a goalie and a defenseman but that’s a topic for another story.
Now back to Belmont where another New York team didn’t even finish in the money.
While Islanders co-owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin celebrate and pose for pictures with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, the most famous soccer team in North America can only think “what if” because five years ago, they had grand plans for the Belmont space as well.
Before they returned to the pitch in August 2013 after a 29 year absence, the New York Cosmos were part of the initial request for proposals from the Empire State Development group. They proposed a privately financed $400 million mixed-use project that included a 25,000 seat soccer stadium.
The project was to be called “Elmont Town Crossings.”
Four years went by without an answer before the state scrapped that RFP and started the process all over again.
“The Islanders proposal had many of our same concepts (as the Cosmos),” said Erik Stover, the Cosmos’ Chief Operating Officer in a statement to Elite Sports New York.
The Cosmos played most of their home games from 2013 to 2016 at Stuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University on Long Island before moving to MCU Park in Brooklyn this past season. Building that proposed stadium was a big part of the Cosmos’ initial business plan, but when things didn’t pan out, they remained at Hofstra, couldn’t get ideal dates for home games, and were forced to play some games at 2500 seat Belson Stadium at St. John’s.
Ultimately, for a plethora of reasons, they weren’t welcomed back at Hofstra for 2017 and moved west to Coney Island.
Today, the Cosmos, as well as the entire NASL, are waiting for a decision on a request for an injunction that would have the United States Soccer Federation restore the league’s division two status while a lawsuit plays out. If the NASL doesn’t get a positive ruling, the league and the Cosmos could do anything from cease operations, go on hiatus, play at the division three level or as an independent league.
The league and the Cosmos have stated on numerous occasions that it’s division two or bust and one has to wonder if the luck changed when the stadium dreams died. Had the Cosmos received the rights to build that stadium, things might have been different. The eight time Soccer Bowl champions had the vision but they’re going to see another team call Belmont home.
Regardless of what team earned those development rights, the Cosmos knew it was going to be good for the area as long as their was cooperation across the board.
“I’m certain that this type of mixed-use development will be an economic boon for the region. Hopefully the State, NYRA and the investors will make the improvements needed for sustainable growth that will benefit the local residents. The LIRR station and the local power grid are just two critical things that need investment.”
Admittedly, I’m in a tough spot here.
As the public address announcer for the Cosmos, a team I rooted for as a child, I wanted them desperately to get that stadium. It was a devastating blow to all of us who work for the team when it didn’t happen.
As a fan of the Islanders, I’m delighted that they’re coming back because they should never have moved to Brooklyn in the first place. Would I have been happier with a new arena on the Nassau Coliseum site and a stadium for the Cosmos at Elmont?
You bet, but this is a story that had many twists and turns with only one winner and that’s the Islanders. Even NYCFC is still left looking for a new home. As for the Cosmos, I’m hopeful they will be playing somewhere next season.
It’s still frustrating that they wanted to bring Cosmos Country to Elmont and they never got an answer until … well maybe the silence was the answer.