ELMONT, NY – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – along with local leaders, the New York Islanders hockey team and representatives of National Hockey League, staged a ceremonial groundbreaking event yesterday at Belmont Park.
This makes the digging that’s been going on there for several weeks official. In fact, cement already had been poured for some of the pylons that anchor and support the foundation.
But none of that stopped all the people with shinny shovels on a man-made stage of sand, with a couple of well-placed backhoes borrowed from a giant pit behind them to serve as a backdrop. Ceremony time.
“The Islanders belong on Long Island and today we start building the state-of-the-art home this team and their fans deserve, while generating thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity for the region’s economy,” pronounced Governor Cuomo.
The stage was filled with representatives of all the entities involved in the project, including three boys who grew up in Queens — Cuomo, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Islanders owner Jon Ledecky – spoke to a crowd of several hundred guests.
“This today will go down as one of the great days in the history of the New York Islanders,” Commissioner Bettman said. “This is the day that assures everybody who has anything to do with the Islanders, who cares anything about the Islanders. [Passionate Islanders fans can see] that this is the future of this franchise, right here on Long Island.”
Ledecky was the main cheerleader, leading the crowd with the “Yes, Yes, Yes” chant that follows every Isles goal. “We celebrate this historic day with our loyal fans and thank Governor Cuomo, who has championed the Belmont Park Arena project from the start.”
The 19,000-seat arena–17,113 for hockey–is scheduled to open for the 2021-22 NHL season. A hotel, a retail-shopping village, a food, beverage and entertainment concourse and a full-time Long Island Rail Road station will all be completed at a later date.
[Ed note: Mark has been posting weekly updates with pictures taken from the roof of Belmont’s grandstand and suggested that a web cam might be better. Someone listened and the Islanders have done just that. All can watch from the link below: https://www.nhl.com/islanders/arena/belmont#live-cam].
Additionally, The New York Racing Association is planning to dovetail a multi-year major renovation of Belmont Park while the work is being done by New York Arena Partners, a group consisting of the Islanders, Sterling Project Development of New York Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, and Oak View Group, a leader in the field of sports arenas and entertainment.
SPD is a development, advisory and management company with international experience across all project types: Citi Field in New York, Target Field in Minnesota, and Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit are among the firm’s most familiar sports structures.
OVG, whose motto is “We are here to be a positive disruption to business as usual in the sports and live entertainment industry,” is a joint venture of sports executive Tim Leiweke and media mogul Irving Azoff, manager of numerous top musical performers.
AECOM Hunt, on site at Belmont, is the number one builder of stadiums and arenas worldwide. The company has built nine retractable roof stadiums, 13 NHL arenas, 14 NBA arenas, 14 NFL stadiums, 18 MLB stadiums and 33 collegiate stadiums and arenas, and Constructed the first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium – Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
On Feb 7, 2017, I reported for HRI that the Islanders were going to build an ice hockey arena at Belmont Park. Leiweke told me “You guys are going to be really happy with this,” on December 20, 2017, when the official announcement was made at Belmont Park that New York State’s Empire Development Corp. awarded the Request for Proposal to NYAP. HRI was first to report this on Dec, 5, 2017. This September, the physical process finally began.
The Islanders and their fans never quite settled into their new Brooklyn home, Barclays Center. The team began playing games there for the 2015-16 season and ranked 28th in attendance in the 30-team league.
Two years prior to that, however, NYRA board member Michael Dubb floated an idea to late Islanders’ owner Charles Wang about an Islanders Arena at Belmont Park
Wang, the majority owner at that time, was fed up after the failed Lighthouse project and public funding referendum to rebuild their former home, the Nassau Coliseum. Wang also lacked the billion dollars it would cost to build a new arena.
The Islanders and their present landlord, Barclays Center, had opt-out clauses in the 25-year contract and eventually both agreed opting out was in both their interests.
When the Islanders Arena at Belmont Park opens for the 2021-2022 NHL season, the Isles will have a state of the art facility to call their own for the first time in its 49-year history.