The Islanders’ proposal to build a new arena at Belmont Park in Elmont has been selected as the winning bid, the state announced Wednesday.
“I always felt when the Islanders left they left a hole in the heart of Long Island,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at a news conference at the racetrack. “The Islanders are back where they belong. It feels right. It feels good.”
The Islanders’ bid includes an 18,000-seat, year-round arena that would host 150 events annually as well as 435,000 square feet of space for retail, a hotel with 200 to 250 rooms, and a 10,000-square-foot “innovation center” that would be developed with resident input.
The Islanders’ partners in the development include Sterling Project Development, a real estate firm run by the Mets’ Wilpon family, and Oak View Group, an arena development company partially funded by Madison Square Garden.
The proposal was selected over New York City FC, a professional soccer team partially owned by the Yankees. That bid called for a 26,000-seat open-air stadium in addition to 400,000 square feet of space for retail, a 5.2-acre community park and a two-acre soccer facility.
Proposals were submitted to Empire State Development, the state’s primary business development agency, before its Sept. 28 deadline.
The agency on Wednesday morning said the Islanders’ proposal had been accepted after “a thorough review and evaluation process.”
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who co-hosted a hearing on the dueling proposals last week, said the development would benefit Elmont, Floral Park and the communities surrounding Belmont Park.
“Governor Cuomo, my colleagues in government, and I have worked very hard to make the best use out of Belmont,” Kaminsky said in a statement. “I believe that tomorrow’s announcement will benefit Long Island and the surrounding communities.”
State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) said the “foundation has now been laid to make Belmont Park a reinvigorated economic engine for our region.”
Nassau County Executive-elect Laura Curran, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 1, said she was “excited to finally welcome the Islanders home to Nassau County, and I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo for helping make that possible.”
Belmont first opened in 1905 and was last redeveloped 50 years ago. The state-run land is considered among Long Island’s most valuable real estate, with dozens of acres of underutilized parking lots bordering the Cross Island Parkway. The New York Racing Association plans to upgrade the existing park facilities next summer.
A handful of local groups, including the Parkhurst Civic Association and the Tudor Manor Civic Association, are considering filing a lawsuit to stop the project, said Matthew Sexton, a civic activist from Floral Park. They argue that Empire State Development failed to follow state law requiring it establish a community advisory council to address the community’s concerns.
Opponents of the project want the state to build education, research or technology centers that would bring high-paying jobs to the area.
The Islanders began playing at Nassau Coliseum in the team’s first season in 1972. After years of trying to get a new arena built, the team left in 2015 to play home games at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The Brooklyn arena was not built for hockey, and the Islanders have been unhappy with the quality of the ice, the marketing of the team and the atmosphere for fans.
The Islanders or Barclays can opt out of the 25-year licensing agreement in January. The team is currently negotiating with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates Barclays Center and the renovated Nassau Coliseum, on amending the lease.
The window for those negotiations closes on Jan. 1, and both sides have until Jan. 30 to formally deliver “opt-out” notices, a formality at this point. Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky has said the team will continue to play at Barclays Center through next season as they are contractually obligated to do.
County officials have encouraged the Islanders to consider playing their homes games at the Coliseum, which underwent a $160-million face-lift, while the Belmont arena is under construction. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has insisted the overhauled Uniondale arena, which seats 13,900 for hockey and has no public transportation, is not viewed by the league “as a suitable option for the Islanders.”
A representative with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment said it will release a statement after a formal announcement.
NYC FC declined to comment.