Anne M. Eberhardt

Bidding on Belmont Land Allowed; NHL Team Interested

Belmont Park land being considered as new home of NHL's New York Islanders.

A state panel that monitors the New York Racing Association gave its OK for another round of bidding to commence for development of up to approximately 43 acres at Belmont Park.

The Franchise Oversight Board said July 28 it supports releasing a request for a development proposal of the land, which is the latest possible location for the New York Islanders NHL team.

Development of the Belmont property is permitted under terms of a 2008 NYRA franchise agreement that extended NYRA’s exclusive rights to run Belmont, Aqueduct Racetrack, and Saratoga Race Course in return for a number of concessions, including the state's authority to permit development of land at the track that straddles the border of Long Island and Queens.

The request for proposal has not been officially released, but is expected in the coming days. The state's main economic development agency is handling the process and bidders will have just six weeks to put together proposals.

Officials indicated NYRA will have some sort of feedback role in the process, though what precisely that will mean was not clear during a July 28 oversight panel meeting in Albany.

The state first sought to develop 32 acres at the track—in two separate parcels—in 2012. Bids included everything from a 25,000-seat soccer stadium to a retail complex. The state halted the process when it was not satisfied with the proposals.

The original 32-acre plan could grow to about 43 acres depending on what types of plans are offered, state officials said. The smaller parcel is located adjacent to the western end of the track's clubhouse; it is that area that could grow in size depending on what's submitted. The larger parcel is along the nearby Hempstead Parkway.

The project's goal is meant to "strengthen Belmont,’" according to the oversight panel's chairman, Robert Williams, who is also chairman of the state's gaming commission, which regulates gambling industries, including horse racing, in New York.

Bids must be "complementary" to horse racing and pari-mutuel activities at the track, he added, and should include some sort of opportunities to bring additional sports, hospitality, and retail opportunities to Belmont. The state owns the land at Belmont, as well as at NYRA's two other tracks, according to terms in the 2008 franchise extension.

The Islanders moved from the Nassau Coliseum to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the start of the 2015 season, and various efforts to find a permanent home have collapsed. The team is expected to be among the bidders to develop the two parcels at Belmont.

A NYRA spokesman was not immediately available for comment.