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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Excavating and tree removal in Belmont’s former backyard , which now belongs to the Islanders.
Photo; Mark Berner

The New York Arena Partners broke ground Wednesday for the New York Islanders Arena at Belmont Park, a day many Islanders fans thought would never come.

The southwest corner of Belmont’s former Red parking field, site of the new Isles Arena
photo: Marl Berner

Heavy equipment tore up the tarmac in the parking lot where the arena will be built and trees were felled in part of Belmont’s former backyard, which now belongs to the Isles.

Belmont was abuzz with workers. Offices are setup both inside the grandstand and outside in trailers.

This is all happening one day after the hockey team got the final approval from the Franchise Oversight Board.

Surveying the site of the arena
photo: Mark Berner

The 19,000-seat arena is scheduled to open in October 2021 and NYAP will go 24/7/365 to complete the project on time.

A 250-room hotel, 350,000 square feet of retail space, and a food, beverage and entertainment concourse will follow.

The New York Racing Association also has plans to renovate Belmont Park, which will take place in several stages to accommodate racing there and in conjunction with the Islanders project.

NYRA said previously that it would reveal its plans for Belmont after the Islanders deal was final. That time has come.

Calls to both NYRA and the Isles were not returned. Stay tuned for more details.

Jack Sterne, Press Secretary, Downstate for Empire State Development read this article and issued to following statement to clarify exactly what is happening at Belmont Park.

Jack Sterne, ESD: “As with any major construction project, our development partners need to prepare the Belmont site before construction can start – that’s what you are seeing today. Permits for full construction will not be issued until a lease is signed.”

©, All Rights Reserved, 2019

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48 Responses

  1. Historic day in New York Islanders history !! After many years of a wild roller coaster ride with lots of wrists and turns the day has come to rejoice in celebration. Finally Islander fan know the team will remain on Long Island 😃. A standing ovation for owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky accomplishing what many thought to be the impossible. Our future is bright and very sunny. Always Believe 😎

    1. Pat-
      We met at the presser at Belmont. I was standing with you and a young woman on the side that day. I didn’t outwardly gloat that I had the scoop. but my heart swelled as an Isles fan. Happy to celebrate another milestone with you. Will make a point to stop down and say hello at some game this season.

      1. Yes yes yes !!! Remember that day very well, I sure hope to see you at ground breaking and catch up 😀. Well written article with the great news every Islander fan has been waiting for Mark 🤙🏻

    1. It’s about 50 feet or so next to the parking lot on the playground side…only a small portion of the backyard. NYRA’s paddock renovations may have more of an impact than the Isles.

  2. So Mark does that explain why the official groundbreaking with all the politicians isn’t until after Labor Day, they should have the proper permits by then? Sounds like the State wanted to clarify what was happening so the opposition won’t have another reason to sue. Thanks for the photos.

    1. Tag
      I guess so. Permits for demolition and those for construction are very different. I can tell you without doubt that they’ve set up for the long term.

      1. I wish someone had a permit to stop this monstrosity. These kinds of developments are out of date. They’re treating the site like it was in some faceless regional city, and not a borough of the great city of New York. All of Belmont Park should have had a historic district designation. Major sports are in decline but horse racing has real potential appeal in the future, with its open space, animal husbandry and low density, yet it’s also a sport and a form of entertainment which could be self supporting. The outdoor racetrack grandstand has far more appeal than a field or ice surface surrounded by seating, it’s much more like a community park. What’s old is new again.

  3. Now what about the current status for transit connections to the Islanders Arena? Governor Cuomo claims that it will only cost $105 million to pay for a new full-time Elmont LIRR station between Bellrose and Queens Village on the Main Line and for the upgrades to the part time Belmont Park Arena events Station. How did he come up with this number? How will the developers $97 million share be transferred into the current MTA 2015 – 2019 or future 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan for LIRR to access these funds? A reliable cost estimate takes more than just a press release with station renderings that were probably prepared by Empire State Development Corporation project consultant.

    Costs will be further refined as the project progresses through completion of the environmental review process, preliminary and final design, award of construction contracts followed by change orders to the base contracts during construction, due to last minute changes in scope or unforeseen site conditions.

    Cuomo offered no detailed project budget, procurement strategy, force account plan, track outage plan and schedule to validate both the $105 million cost and project completion to coincide with the Islanders Belmont Arena opening 27 months away.

    If Governor Cuomo, Empire State Development Corporation, MTA, LIRR, elected officials, consultants and their respective employees are so confident in the $106 million price tag, let them put up their respective retirement pensions, 401Ks and mortgage their homes as collateral. They can cover any inevitable future cost overruns.

    Anyone in the transit industry knows that customers being asked to pay a premium fare always prefer a one seat ride. This is what is provided for most who attend events at Madison Square Garden or the Brooklyn Barclays Center. Why would any Islanders fan coming from Nassau or Suffolk County want to first drive to a local LIRR station, park their car, board the LIRR (and in some cases have to switch at Huntington. Mineola, Babylon or Ronkonkoma from a diesel to electric train) then board a shuttle bus from the new Elmont LIRR station west bound north platform which will not open until 2023. Who knows if the east bound south platform will be completed in time to coincide with the Islanders Arena October 2021 promised opening date.

    Babylon, Speonk, West Hempstead, Long Beach and Far Rockaway branch riders will always have to change at Jamaica (walk up the stairs, take an escalator or elevator from platform levels serving tracks one, two or three to the mezzanine level. Next walk across the mezzanine and down the stairs, escalator or elevator to tracks 7 or 8. Then they will have to wait for the next east bound train to reach the new Elmont Station followed by boarding a shuttle bus to reach the Arena. Port Jefferson, Huntington, Oyster Bay and Ronkonkoma branch riders will have to do the same until the Elmont Station west bound platform and overpass are completed. Port Washington branch riders have the added pleasure of an additional transfer at Woodside. As a result, I predict 95% or more of those attending Islanders games, rock concerts or other events will elect to drive or take a car service.

    (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the 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 and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).


    1. Here we go again. We know most of this, it’s NOT going to be perfect:

      The BIG thing is there will be additional service for those going to games that will be much easier (not to mention the Q2 and Q110 buses that likely will run to Belmont Park at all times with the new arena in addition to the racetrack among others) and those coming from some points west eventually won’t have to backtrack or ride to Queens Village and walk a full mile from there.

      (Larry regularly comments on posts over on 2nd Avenue Sagas, a blog on transit done by Benjamin Kabak that I’ve included a link to in this reply).

      1. I am in the Babylon line and I drive to the main line stations to get to Atlantic terminal, msg, and I drive to Port Washington branch for mets games. This is not a big deal. Pretty much everyone on long island is 10-15 minutes from a branch that will hit the new elmont station. And everyone always drives to a station, whether it’s in their town or not. Sorry this is a non issue. This is great for Belmont, the surrounding areas, and all long Islanders.

        1. Exactly. Larry regularly does these kind of posts over on 2nd Avenue Sagas and doesn’t realize that many people still drive to train stations. The BIG thing here is people won’t have to go home first after work, and especially if lights are installed that allows Belmont to at least during the winter months (assuming Aqueduct closes as is expected as of now in 2022 or ’23) to be able on most days even in the winter to be able to run to 6:00 or 6:30 PM ahead of games in the new building and get people to experience a race or two before the games (and maybe perhaps on a Saturday where the Islanders have say a 1:00 PM game Belmont go with a 3:30 or 4:00 PM start on such a Saturday in an attempt to get people to come for racing after the game).

    2. Larry, with all due respect, I think there’s an aspect that you’re missing. Many fans work in the city; those who travel along the main line (even if they transfer to other branches at Floral Park, Mineola or Hicksville) will, for the first time, be able to get off the train to attend a game without having to go home first and get in their cars. This, I believe, was always a problem for the Islanders at the Coliseum: Fans would get home on the train, take off their shoes, maybe change their clothes, have a bite to eat, get a little too comfortable, and then … decide, ehhhh, I’ll just turn on the TV. Agreed, many fewer fans will take the train from the east unless they are close to a train station on the main line or the northern branches, and, yes, those on the south branches won’t really be able to take good advantage of the train. But for a percentage of fans, whatever that might be, a stop at Elmont to take in a game before going home not only increases the chances of them attending, it reduces a certain percentage of auto traffic.

      As for this: >>Who knows if the east bound south platform will be completed in time to coincide with the Islanders Arena October 2021 promised opening date. << Who knows if we're all going to wake up tomorrow?

      1. Take in a game before going home? They last almost 3 hours and start at 7:30. Chilly, too, and pricey. Another reason horse racing is superior, you can go anytime during the time it’s open, watch 2 or 3 races and leave in less than 90 minutes. Meet there for dinner and leave when you want. Of course they only race during the day or til twilight at present. Maybe they’ll bring in night racing. But the beauty of the sport is it’s flexibility for busy people who want to control their free time. It’s also cheaper, unless you lose money betting.

  4. People need to understand that without this new arena, the Islanders likely have already played their last game on Long Island and in all likelihood are playing the 2019-’20 season and beyond at the Sprint Center in Kansas City as the Kansas City Islanders. KC built the Sprint Center to replace Kemper Arena I believe with the intent of landing an NHL franchise.

    1. Correct !! With out new arena they’re gone like Brooklyn Dodgers years ago. Now about all this speculation on new Elmont LIRR station as well as the different possibilities of transport etc… think positive cause at the end of the day it will work itself out. Bottom line Belmont is happening 😎 Lets Go Islanders !!

  5. With all due respect the reason nobody went to isles games is because they sucked for 30 years.And the majority of people go get thier kids to bring to the game thats what the coliseum was all about.

    1. Good point, first they did not have a good product on the ice and ownership was very questionable to say the least. Remember John Spano ? Bought the team in 1996 only to turn out he didn’t have the proper funding and fooled the NHL and everyone. Other wise poor business people controlled the team for almost the entire time they were founded since 1972. Every thing changed with Charles Wang who in turn sold the team to Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky. Brooklyn was the only option for Wang at the time to keep this team in the metropolitan area. With the collaboration of powerful investors as well as Governor Cuomo, new ownership has achieved what most thought was nearly impossible. Bringing in Lou Lamoriello ,Barry trotz,Mitch Koran and Piero Greco and you have some of the brightest personal in the business running the team. Until then as top draft picks develop, the team should get better every year and be competing for the Stanley Cup for years to come!! Belmont will attract fan base from more then Long Island and with a good product on the ice as well as a state of the art 21st century arena the Islander fans can call their forever home, the future is very bright!! Always Believe 😎

      1. Pat-
        NYRA board member Mike Dubb offered up the Belmont idea to Wang before Brooklyn, but Braclays was ultimately a more immediate opportunity. There could also be 1.3 billion other reasons.

        1. Mark, I had a great conversation with Paul Lancey and Micheal Picker right about that time frame and from what I gathered Charles was simply fed up after two failed attempts as well and as you stated it was quicker solution at the time. The amount of political issues with town of Hempstead as well as elections upcoming played a big part of this as well as the 1.3 billion other reasons lol. Your a encyclopedia of information, would like to catch up and chat in the near future.

          1. Pat-
            I understand. Uncle Al dealt Wang the death card when he didn’t hire Armand. Dolan was also complicit and the league could have taken action, but didn’t. There were so many things that went wrong. He entered with a Partner who ended up in jail and was saddled with another partner from Philly, which sucked out the profits. He had every right to be fed up. Rechler, Lighthouse, referendum… Would love to meet up. I’m 5 minutes from the Coli.

    2. Isles always had problems drawing for the weeknight games hopefully if they have a team that becomes a serious contender year after year the fanbase will show up in larger numbers during the week, maybe a 730 start during the week may be more convenient for people. From what I read the capacity FOR HOCKEY will be a little over 17k with a little over 16k being regular seats and 1k being suites, the larger capacity number is for concerts, the Isles should be able to pretty much fill the building on the weekends and for the playoff games and I’m sure they will be able to fill the building for concerts so I don’t think the capacity is too big like some people do.

      1. Tag-
        I heard there could be two levels of suites/boxes, upper and lower. And the concept of those accommodations has grown in modern arenas. Could be 1,500ish…

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