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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


The future home of the Islanders Arena Park, formerly know as the Red parking lot at Belmont Park photo: Mark Berner

New York State’s Franchise Oversight Board Thursday unanimously voted for all measures necessary for the Islanders Arena at Belmont Park, the final approvals essential for the Belmont Land Redevelopment Project to proceed.

New York Arena Partners will break ground Thursday, and a formal ceremony will occur after Labor Day.

The FOB spent a great amount of time addressing all efforts made by the Empire State Development Corporation regarding items addressed in the supplemental investigation to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, as did the ESD upon its approval, to preempt any favorable decisions of anticipated lawsuits from local opponent groups, which advertised in advance of the anticipated approvals.   

The project is a few months behind schedule but seldom do $1.3 billion deals with public authorities go in a straight line. Belmont Park is 7.6 miles due west of the Coliseum straight down Hempstead Turnpike, but the hockey team got there by way of Brooklyn.

New York Racing Association board member Michael Dubb first proposed the idea to the Islanders’ former majority owner Charles Wang but would not put up $1+ billion to do the deal and the team wound up at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The move was a poor decision for the team and its fans and the never-consummated marriage with Barclays was annulled. It was a financial choice and the best interests of the team and its fan base were secondary.

Islanders’ games for the next two seasons will be split between the Isles original home, The Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and Barclays Center.

Islanders’ games for the 2021-2022 season will be played at a state-of-the-art arena at Belmont Park. It will mark the first time since the team’s inception (1972-73) that it will play in a first class facility.

The arena is the first priority of NYAP. The ancillary components of the project will come later.

NYAP is committed to make the hockey deadline by working 24/7/365, including union overtime.

The project includes a 19,000-seat arena, a 250-room hotel, a 350,000 square foot retail village, a food, beverage and entertainment concourse, and more. Updates on Thursday.

©, All Rights Reserved, 2019

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18 Responses

  1. Great day for the Isles organization, these owners have been a gift from heaven for this fanbase. Being only a few months behind schedule in this state on a project like this should be considered ahead of schedule. Thanks for all your reports on this subject Mark the past few years, and please keep us updated on how things are progressing with the project.

    1. Tag-
      Thanks. There are always unexpected hurdles. The state agencies have stressed the thoroughness and proper procedures they followed. There will be lawsuits. Judges would be hard-pressed to block this project.

      1. Mark….a lawsuit doesn’t even stop work necessarily, correct? The judge would need to have a strong reason to hold up anything, right? Thanks for all of your updates along the way on this topic.

      2. There will be lawsuits for sure,. Unless you get a judge who is strongly against the arena and would issue a biased opinion or get a judge who later proves to be corrupt, I can’t see this being stopped.

  2. Paul-
    Yes, that was why the ESD and FOB were so focused and detailed in the statements of thoroughness of completing the tasks at hand.

    1. Cash-
      There are no sure things, but NYAP thinks it can be completed on time. I guess the Coli is the backup plan if anything delays a timely completion.

  3. In ancient Rome, government attempted to curry favor with the masses by offering free bread and circuses. Today, we have sports pork. How sad that taxpayers are continually asked to pay for new stadiums. Public dollars are being used as corporate welfare to subsidize a private-sector business. The only real beneficiaries of these expenditures are team owners and their players, who earn far more than the average fan.

    It is impossible to judge the amount of new economic activities that these so-called public benefits will generate. Between selling the stadium name, season sky boxes and reserve seating, cable, television and radio revenues, concession refreshment and souvenir sales along with rental income for other sports, rock concerts and commercial events, it is hard to believe that the Islanders Hockey Team owner and Belmont Park developers can’t finance the proposed new stadium on their own.

    Professional sports are not an essential service and should not qualify for government subsidy. Scarce taxpayer funds would be better spent elsewhere. If this is going to be such a great financial deal, why don’t team owners float their own bonds or issue stock to finance the Belmont Park stadium rather than turn to taxpayers and government for support? Go obtain loans from banks, like medium and small businesses.

    Real business people believe in capitalism and build companies on their own. How sad that some don’t want to do it the old fashion way by sweat and hard work. They are looking for shortcuts in the form of subsidies at taxpayers expense and favors from elected officials. What is the cost of improved sewer, water, electrical, road, traffic signal and other infrastructure improvements? There is also increased fire, police and sanitation services. How much will taxpayers be on the hook to pick up the tab?

    The Belmont Park arena project promises all sorts of service options which are already available. Do we really need another “retail village” with various stores and boutiques? They also propose to offer new dining options, sports bars and restaurants. Next, there will be conference centers and meeting rooms along with movie theaters and concert facilities. All of these so-called benefits would just compete against existing shopping malls, upscale stores, restaurants, sports bars and end up stealing some of their customers. There are already plenty of hotels and colleges which offer conference centers. The same is true for movie theaters and smaller more intimate concert facilities.

    Since there are less than 60 Islanders home games, the facility will have to be leased out for another 100 events to turn a profit. Why would any rock band appear there, when they can go to Jones Beach Theater, Westbury Music Fair, Nassau Coliseum, Shea Stadium, Arthur Ash Stadium, Forest Hills Stadium. Madison Square Garden, Barclay Arena or Radio City Music Hall? The same is true for World Wrestling Federation, circuses, college sports or other events requiring space for several thousand participants.

    (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road MTA Bus, Nassau County NICE Bus, New Jersey Transit along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)..


    1. Larry-
      Maybe hard to believe for you, but clear to all others is that NYAP has secured private funds to build this project. ESD has the exact figures on its site. As for the Arena’s other uses, no industry executive has had a more protean relationship to power than Irving Azoff, an entertainment mogul and partner of Oak View Group, itself a partner of NYAP. He can bring in more than 100 music events per year.

    2. All great questions, Larry.
      Here’s a better one.
      How did the price of a rail road station go from 300 million to 100 million in 24 hours? Dolan just got 700 million for an LIRR entrance complete with ground broken in June next to Chase Garden. Newsday staff don’t cover those stories or ones in LA with Clippers arena vs Dolan/Azoff/Oakview.

      No mall for Malkin, no arena for Dolan/cronies. Something has to fund teams payroll that won’t work with 8,000 at games.
      They can’t call Joe Tsai fast enough and go back to Barclay’s with a new agreement, take all this taxpayer money and renovate Barclay’s so they can play in a city, they got 14.8k on 2/16, Nassau got 11-12,000 in March in first.

  4. Looks like worst case scenario with the arena would be that construction gets delayed by a court order but even if that happens it looks like it’s pretty certain that this arena is getting built.

    I love when people who live on Long Island complain about their tax dollars being spent on Long Island unlike our federal tax dollars where NY sends the most tax dollars to Washington and gets the least amount of dollars in return, our federal tax dollars are being spent in the rural south and Midwest thanks to the people who control how money is allocated in this country buying votes for the next national election. This project is being built on unused state land and unused land doesn’t generate revenue for anyone.

  5. Larry, imagine if PETA existed in ancient Rome? It would have been bye-bye circus. (insert smiley face here).

    On a serious note, I agree in principle with your observations. I, too, believe, that private enterprise should put up their own money. But I could also note that if money is good enough to buy elections and endeavor to turn a democracy into a fascist state, building sports arenas is harmless in a big picture context.

    A survey was taken many, many years ago–the source of which I have long forgotten–concluded that American cities cannot truly be perceived as “big city” unless it included a major league franchise, or smaller places such as College Station, TX, or South Bend IN, that are known because big-time college football programs gives those places a special, national identity.

    Everyone wants to have a sense of civic pride. This includes Long Island. As someone born in Queens–have been trying to live that down since 2016–but who raised a family on Long Island, I can attest first hand that these are different worlds; might as well be different states. But that’s another discussion for another day.

    The Islanders were conceived and named for its place of origin when the NHL expanded. The fact that it became a dynasty in the early ’80s gave people who lived in Nassau and Suffolk Counties that sense of national pride, however sophomoric that might be.

    Indeed, business and government, or business and the military, is an unholy marriages? But, then, if you’re not a capitalist you’re a “communist,” right. Yes, as Americans, we love our labels. (Sorry, sometimes I can’t help but be whimsically facetious).

    Civic pride notwithstanding, sports venues are entertainment destinations that bring commerce, and commerce brings jobs. It seems that forms or entertainment are the best thing this country produces anymore. I mean, hasn’t the NFL replaced that old-time religion on Sundays?

    I do agree that existing bricks and mortar–with the exception of four-legged ones that run on grass–is struggling, and the next shiny object, like political distractions, may do more harm than good to the present state of reality.

    But Americans long ago have dedicated themselves to convenience above all other things–time management, and all that.

    An example of this may have been best told in “The Last Picture Show.” There aren’t many stand-alone movie theaters that can exist anymore, to use one example. These days there needs also to be eating places to go with nearby, or a mall type atmosphere to walk around in leisurely.

    I wish our perfect world vision, yours and mine, were the current state of affairs. But commerce, followed by more commerce, is how things get done now, seemingly by any means necessary.

    And as long as wealth and power disparity go hand in hand and grow wider, the public will have little choice but to pick up the tab.

    Well…that was different.

  6. So I bring up Dolan’s conflicts of interest with this project and the guy cyber-bullies me into oblivion, now he tells everyone Dolan was complicit in Wang not getting a new arena, and the NHL could have taken action.

    Why don’t you now tell everyone how James or Charles Dolan was complicit in stopping Wang getting a new arena, and how the league let Dolan get away with it?

    Don’t need concrete in toilet stories, you wrote Dolan was complicit in stopping an arena for NYI, tell everyone, as Oakview and Azoff are his boys at Belmont with Cuomo-Lhota, while Percoco-Silver wait for jail time.

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