Aqueduct bidders pitch plans – QNS.com

Aqueduct bidders pitch plans

Mark Holliday of SL Green talks about his company’s proposal for Aqueduct Race Track during a meeting with the Queens Chamber of Commerce last month. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Howard Koplowitz

As they await Gov. David Paterson’s decision, the six bidders vying for the contract to redevelop Aqueduct Race Track are making their pitches to the neighborhoods close to the Ozone Park course.

Most recently, bidder SL Green made its case to the Queens Chamber of Commerce last month.

Mark Holliday of SL Green told the chamber its personnel and dedication to the community near the track makes SL Green the best-equipped to handle the project.

Holliday noted the SL Green group includes Hard Rock Entertainment — a brand that will be used by planning a rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia bar and the potential for live musical acts to perform at Aqueduct’s grandstand.

“I think the potential of bringing live entertainment back to Queens is very exciting,” he said. “Hard Rock will commit to putting music on the table.”

Holliday also said SL Green purchased retail property on Liberty Avenue near the track as evidence of the group’s commitment to the community.

Numerous deadlines for Paterson to make a decision between six bidders on the video lottery terminals and redevelopment project have come and gone. The project is seen as crucial to helping to overcome the state’s budget gap and $1 million a day will go to education once the VLTs are up and running.

SL Green declined to say what its upfront payment would be to the state if it won the contract.

But rival Wynn Resorts, headed by Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, was not shy in saying what its upfront payment would be. The Wynn group said itsAqueduct plans include a $100 million upfront payment and 2,500 VLTs.

Bidder Delaware North initially won the VLT contract but had to bow out because it could not secure the $370 million upfront payment it promised the state.

The Buffalo-based company entered the second round of bidding and teamed up with other firms to create Aqueduct Gaming.

Also in the mix is MGM Grand, led by the Florida-based Peebles Corp., and Penn National Gaming, which teamed up with the Connecticut-based casino Mohegan Sun to submit a bid.

A spokeswoman for R. Donahue Peebles said if the group is selected it would mark the first time a state contract was awarded to a firm headed by an African American.

Shane Cavanaugh, also a spokesman for the Peebles-led group, said the bid has secured the financing it needs to build the project. He said VLTs could be up and running by Christmas 2010 if Peebles’ bid wins.

Part of the bid includes creating a youth academy “that introduces local youth to enterpreneurship and inspirational examples” and a small business development center.

Cavanaugh declined to say what the bid’s upfront payment would be but said it was “competitive with the others.”

Partnering with Aqueduct Entertainment Group is Navegante Gaming, a firm that is trying to help build casinos in Taiwan, Panama and Dodge City, Kansas.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) told Community Board 10 earlier this month what his priorities were for the winning bid.

Addabbo said Aqueduct should have its own security so the 102nd Precinct would not have to respond to incidents at the track.

“Our police force is thinned out as it is,” he said.

Addabbo also warned against a builder that would convert Aqueduct into a sort of Las Vegas east.

“If you’re too big and too grand, you can’t work here,” he said.

The senator also said Paterson owes it to the community to tell it what the winning bid is before the media does.

“We deserve a little heads-up on who the governor’s going to pick,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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