Islanders win right to build arena at Belmont Park, now have to say how they’ll pay for it

The state of New York is set to pick the winning bid to develop land next to Belmont Park racetrack and, SPOILER ALERT, it’s gonna be the New York Islanders‘ arena plan:

The hockey team was informed Tuesday that its proposal to build a new arena at Belmont Park in Elmont was selected as the winning bid, according to people familiar with the situation…

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.

So, whee, the Islanders are finally giving up on the failed Brooklyn experiment and getting a new arena closer to their Long Island fanbase, right? Yeah, well, maybe. Getting permission to use the Belmont Park land was always going to be the easy part; actually coming up with money to build the thing will be another story. Yes, the team’s owners have partnered with the Mets owners and Oak View Group, the company run by former AEG honcho Tim Leiweke and Madison Square Garden, and have vowed that the private partners are “fully committed to financing the arena.” And yes, it’s possible they might even want to do that, if only as a way of getting a leg up in the ongoing war for arena dominance between the region’s major sports operators, though it’ll cost them big, and there’s no guarantee that a Belmont arena will outdraw Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and its affiliated Nassau Coliseum for concerts and such.

So when the announcement does come later today — or at least when the Islanders owners have to declare whether they’re opting out of their Brooklyn lease, in January — there are two things we should keep an eye out for in particular:

  • What are the terms of the lease for the racetrack land? This is a hugely valuable piece of state property, so if the Islanders owners and their partners are getting it for anything less than market value, that’d be a giveaway by taxpayers.
  • Will there be any tax kickbacks or other hidden subsidies? None have been hinted at so far, but then, they’ve had no reason to when it would only risk pissing people off. Not requiring the Islanders to pay property taxes (or payments in lieu of them, if the land remains state-owned and off the tax rolls), or kicking back tax receipts in some kind of tax-increment plan are the two main concerns, but your imagination is the limit here.

I don’t want to get too negative: If the Islanders are actually paying their way, this could be a good solution for a franchise that shortsightedly succumbed to the lure of Brooklyn hipness and impulsively moved to an arena that’s terrible for hockey and nowhere near where most of its fans live — not to mention a way of getting a new arena for the tristate area by parlaying a turf war among would-be arena operators into an actually reasonable bid, not too far from what Seattle did. But as history shows that there’s often another shoe to drop with these “we’re gonna build an arena and pay for it ourselves!!!” announcements, I’m going to wait for more details before giving this an unhesitant thumbs up.

Islanders and NYCFC shed no light whatever on their Belmont bids

There was a public “listening session” yesterday on plans for redeveloping land alongside Belmont Park, and both the New York Islanders and NYC F.C. made presentations, and “details” were “revealed,” according to the New York Post headline, and oh boy oh boy let’s see what we’ve got:

Reps for the NYCFC soccer organization, which currently plays at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, say the team’s plans for a 26,000-seat stadium at the Elmont, LI, site would also include 400,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, 15.3 acres of open space, a 5-acre park and 2-acre soccer facility…

The Islanders’ plan calling for an 18,000-seat arena was revealed to include an entertainment hub, hotel and retail village.

Wait, that’s it? We already knew pretty much all that — not down to the tenth of an acre, sure, but “sports facility accompanied by other development” was both teams’ plan all along. No details about how this would be funded? No renderings? Come on, we gotta at least get some renderings!

That’s not a rendering! There aren’t even any fireworks or lens flare! This Monday sucks.

(Here’s a video of the Islanders’ developer talking about how he used to build snowmen with Mets co-owner Jeff Wilpon when they were kids, which is something, I guess.)

Friday roundup: Battles over Blues arena, Vegas bond subsidy, Belmont land for Islanders

Let’s get right to this week’s remainders:

Friday roundup: Austin MLS vote, Rays demand $650m in subsidies, Islanders renderings, more!

I’m busy trying to figure out whether Congress is really going to rewrite the tax code to give a couple of trillion dollars to rich people or will melt down at the last second like it did with healthcare repeal, so this’ll be in superbrief mode this morning:

Friday roundup: Atlanta Falcons’ non-retracting retractable roof now can’t even keep rain out

Crazed billionaires are shutting down our nation’s news media when employees try to assert their rights, so let’s enjoy journalism while we still have it with another week in news briefs:

  • The Saskatchewan Roughriders‘ old stadium got blowed up real good.
  • The developers who want to build a $15 million modular stadium for the NASL team San Diego 1904 F.C. haven’t actually filed a development plan yet with the city of Oceanside.
  • The Atlanta Falcons‘ non-retracting retractable roof has already sprung a leak.
  • Asked by the New York Post about the New York Islanders‘ bid to build a new arena on state land near Belmont Park, team owner Jonathan Ledecky replied, ““I think we’re circling the airport, just waiting to be given a landing clue,” which doesn’t actually mean anything at all that I can tell, but it sure is an evocative image. Then he pointed to the team’s new $7 million practice facility on Long Island, with a “world-class chef” for players, as “emblematic of what we can do if we were granted the right [to build] at Belmont.”
  • Sacramento city officials want to use the Kings‘ old arena, now vacant after Sacramento built the team a new arena, as a temporary convention center while the city conducts a $125 million renovation of its regular convention center. The arena is an arena, not a convention center, and it’s still owned by the Kings owners, not the city, and I’m sure this is all going to go just swimmingly, no need to be concerned at all.

Friday roundup: New soccer stadiums, yet another Vegas arena, Falcons roof still not done

Happy fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, everybody! While you get ready to go to your anniversary parties and dress up as, um, hurricanes, and you know what, this riff isn’t going anywhere, let’s get to the news:

  • Had you forgotten about former UNLV basketball star Jackie Robinson’s $1.4 billion retractable-roofed-arena-plus-hotel-plus-other-stuff project just because Las Vegas already has one new arena, he hasn’t — and now says it’s a $2.7 billion project that will include a 63-story hotel, a conference center, a 24-lane bowling alley, and a wedding chapel. No construction has begun yet, but Robinson says it will all be completed by 2020, or else maybe by then it will cost $5.2 billion and include a space elevator.
  • Chris Hansen is trying a new gambit to turn attention away from Oak View Group’s KeyArena renovation plan and toward his SoDo new-arena plan, and it involves declaring the OVG plan a “public” and not a “private” process, which would require a longer environmental review process, and if your eyes are glazing over already I don’t blame you, skip to the next item, it’s got juicy if unproven allegations of political corruption in it.
  • New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon has given Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2017 re-election campaign a $65,000 donation that’s twice as large as all other donations he’s previously given the governor combined, and with Wilpon in the midst of looking to get approval from the state for a new soccer stadium Islanders arena (sorry, had a brain fart on this one while typing) next to Belmont Park racetrack … well, you connect the dots. (Or don’t: An Empire State Development spokesperson snapped, “Participation in the political process has zero bearing on any of this and any of these ‘sources’ with questions are free to contact us instead of trafficking in conspiracy theories.”) Bigger question: Fred Wilpon has $65,000 to spare?
  • The Atlanta Falcons‘ retractable roof is now set to finally work by March 2018. Probably.
  • Nashville held a hearing on its proposed $75 million soccer stadium subsidy deal, and if you guessed that a self-proclaimed soccer mom said it would be a “feather in our cap” while a non-soccer-fan local resident said “you’re asking me to help fund a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar project for another sports team that most likely will not benefit me,” then you’re right on the money.
  • The prospective NASL team San Diego 1904 F.C. is planning a stadium that will cost only $15 million because it will be built modularly elsewhere and shipped to the stadium site in Oceanside, but at least they didn’t skimp on the searchlight renderings.
  • The chair of Rhode Island’s senate finance committee says he’ll put a halt to the Pawtucket Red Sox‘ $38 million stadium subsidy request if the team owners don’t provide more financial information. It sounds like this is over the team’s internal finances, and could be resolved with a non-disclosure agreement, but still, it’s something to keep an eye on, since projects have succeeded or fallen over pettier things.
  • Louisville approved $30 million in bonds to help pay for a new Louisville City F.C. soccer stadium, in exchange for which the team will repay $14.5 million over 10 years, which comes to about $11 million in present value, so the city will only lose $19 million on the deal, unless there’s still plans for as much as $35 million in state property-tax kickbacks via a TIF, in which case this is really a $54 million subsidy for a minor-league soccer stadium. Maybe they should go with one of those modular dealies instead? Just a thought.

Islanders owner says Belmont arena would need full-time train service, gives no price tag

New York Islanders co-owner Jonathan Ledecky and his would-be development partner Peter Luukko of Oak View Group have revealed exactly where their planned new arena next to Belmont Park racetrack would be, and it’s … next to Belmont Park racetrack, does anyone really care exactly which parcel it is?

More interesting is this:

A full-time LIRR stop at Belmont would be necessary to meet the number of people who would be coming regularly to the arena, Luukko said. Currently, the Belmont LIRR station is used only when horse racing is taking place…

Ledecky said he isn’t concerned about the LIRR’s ability to accommodate such a plan, saying it has been amenable to adding extra trains after games at Barclays Center in response to the crush of people leaving Islanders games at the same time. He also noted how ridership increases on game nights…

LIRR and MTA officials have said as recently as last spring there were no plans to add full service to Belmont.

So, should the cost of adding full-time rail service to a new stadium be counted as a public subsidy? On the one hand, running trains for the public to get where they need to go is exactly what the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is set up to do, and presumably any development on the Belmont site would require increased service. On the other, it’s going to be at least a little bit galling to city transit riders putting up with abysmal service if the Islanders get to jump the line for new expenses just because they want to move from a place that already has tons of public transit to a place that doesn’t.

We’re still really early in the negotiating process, and of course we still have no clue what the financial details of the arena plan will be. This whole train cost thing is something to keep an eye on, though, once we have enough info to start building a cost-benefit spreadsheet.


Islanders owner: We’re totally going to move to Belmont, someday, somehow

We still have zero details on how the New York Islanders owners’ plan for an arena at Belmont Park would work, but co-owner Jon Ledecky nonetheless gave team beat writers the hard sell on it yesterday:

“We are locked and loaded on Belmont,” Ledecky said Tuesday at a luncheon with Islanders beat writers. “We have the blinders on for Belmont. We’re not looking at other places, other things, other opportunities. We want to make Belmont a reality.”

Great! Visualization is the first step, right?

More interesting is the tidbit buried deep in the article that the Islanders need to decide whether to opt out of their Barclays Center lease in January, but the state Empire State Development agency hasn’t announced when it will make its decision on the Belmont land. This means Ledecky and friends could be in the position of having to decide to terminate the lease without knowing when and if they’ll get a site for a new arena — which would at the very least leave the franchise having to negotiate a new lease extension in Brooklyn from a position of crappy leverage. Though since it’s a mutual lease out clause, I suppose if the Barclays Center owners want the leverage, they can just cancel the lease themselves and be done with it.

Meanwhile, Ledecky and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark are keeping up their war of words over which is more economically useless, the arena or the Islanders:

While I’m dying to find out the financial details of the Isles’ Belmont plan, I’ve gotta admit that this is a lot more fun.

Friday roundup: Raiders talk lease extension, Rams attendance woes may set record, and more!

Here’s what you missed this week, or rather what I missed, or rather what I saw at the time but left till Friday because there are only so many hours in the week, man:

NYCFC, Islanders to go head-to-head for Belmont Park land as potential new home

Today is the deadline for responses to New York state’s Request For Proposals for redeveloping a plot of land near Belmont Park racetrack just outside the New York City border, and it looks like the Islanders are going to have some sports competition for their arena plans after all:

New York City FC, the pro soccer team partly owned by the Yankees, is preparing the submit a bid to build a soccer stadium on the state-run property in Elmont, Long Island, near the Queens border, sources told The Post Monday night…

NYCFC would partner with developer Related Co. in its proposal, sources said. … The Islanders bid is expected to include teaming up with Sterling Project Development, which is controlled by the majority owners of the Mets; and Oak View Group, which is backed by Madison Square Garden, owners of the NHL’s Rangers and National Basketball Association’s Knicks.

The state Empire State Development Corporation told me it won’t be releasing the RFP responses, so we’re going to have to depend on whatever the Islanders and NYC F.C. tell us about their plans, which isn’t likely to be much. (Though I do eagerly anticipate some wacky renderings with lots of fireworks going off.) The prospect of two sports franchises going at it for the same land at least raises the possibility of a Seattle-style bidding war here, which could only be good for New York state taxpayers. More news, and pretty pictures, tomorrow, I hope.