BY TIMOTHY BOLGER AND ROBERT POZARYCKI; UPDATED ON DEC. 20, 2 P.M.
The New York Islanders have won a bid to build a new arena at Belmont Park on the Queens/Nassau border, and it’s possible the team will skate back home to Long Island before the new building is done.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg and other news outlets cited anonymous sources stating that hockey team and its financial backers are getting the green light to build a new 18,000-seat arena on New York state land in a parking lot adjacent to the racetrack.
Governor Andrew Cuomo made it official the following day during a formal announcement at the racetrack. He said the billion-dollar development will create a new 18,000-seat arena that will serve as the Islanders’ permanent home, as well as a new 435,000-square-foot retail and dining village and a luxury hotel adjacent to the arena.
“With the state-of-the-art redevelopment of Belmont Park, we are adding a crown jewel to the economic resurgence on Long Island. The return of the Islanders is exciting for all fans, bringing the storied franchise back to its rightful home,” Cuomo said. “The creation of this world-class entertainment destination will bring visitors from near and far, as we continue to transform the region and strengthen our economic momentum on Long Island.”
The project will create 12,300 construction jobs and 3,100 permanent jobs, Cuomo said. Additionally, the Belmont Park Long Island Rail Road station will become a full-time stop as part of a new transit hub; the station is only used on race days at the track.
“I am excited to finally welcome the Islanders home to Nassau County, and I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo for helping make that possible,” Nassau County Executive-elect Laura Curran said. “As county executive, I’ll make sure we work with the local community and stakeholders to make sure the area is developed with their input. Economic development at Belmont will benefit all Nassau County taxpayers.”
The rebooted New York Cosmos soccer team previously proposed building a stadium on the site, but the Empire State Development Corp. scrapped that and other bids made years ago. The Cosmos then moved to Brooklyn.
The Islanders left the coliseum in Uniondale, their original home, and moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015 after multiple failed attempts to renovate The Old Barn, as fans call the coliseum.
Earlier this year, reports emerged that the Isles were looking to leave Barclays and find a new home, reigniting hope that they might return to the recently renovated coliseum, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the coliseum is “not a long-term option.”
Investors in the new arena include Sterling Project Development, Madison Square Garden Co. and private equity firm Oak View Group, the Press previously reported. Sterling is owned by the Wilpon family, who also own the New York Mets, while MSG is run by the Dolan family, who also own the New York Rangers and the New York Knicks.
“While it’s certainly an interesting proposal for the Rangers to take ownership in the arena of an arch-rival, it would at least bring the Islanders back to Nassau County,” outgoing Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has said.
Reportedly, the new arena could be ready in time for the 2020 season. Despite its existing lease with the Barclays Center, Cuomo said the state would negotiate with the Islanders to play as many of its home games as possible at the Nassau Coliseum until the new arena is complete.
This article first appeared on Long Island Press.