Funding to renovate Belmont Park, the iconic thoroughbred race track home to the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, has been secured through state legislation.
New York lawmakers late Monday night passed a series of budget measures, with one being a $455 million loan for Belmont Park. Horsemen have been seeking a state-funded loan to renovate the western Long Island venue for several years.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) says she’ll sign the Belmont Park loan. In exchange for the 20-year financing, the New York Racing Association (NYRA), which owns the track on behalf of the state, must adhere to certain guarantees for union jobs.
The transformation of Belmont Park will secure the future of thoroughbred racing in New York State, create thousands of good jobs, and drive tourism to Long Island and the region for decades to come,” said NYRA Chief Executive David O’Rourke.
The NYRA plans to use the $455 million dollars to level the current grandstand at Belmont Park and replace it with a new state-of-the-art, but considerably smaller, venue at about one-fifth the size of the present structure.
The existing 1.25 million-square-foot grandstand and clubhouse will be replaced with a property measuring about 275,000 square feet. NYRA officials say track attendance has diminished greatly over the past two decades.
The proposed project will feature modern amenities and hospitality offerings. And for its busiest weekend of the year — the Belmont Stakes typically held each June — a larger infield connected via underground pedestrian tunnels will accommodate considerably more attendees than the current infield.
Once complete, the NYRA plans to consolidate downstate racing at Belmont Park and terminate racing at Aqueduct. The forthcoming Belmont Park grandstand and clubhouse will be adjacent to UBS Arena, the home of the NHL’s New York Islanders that opened in November 2021.
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The NYRA operates three race courses, with the Saratoga Race Course being the other. The association will pay the state $25.8 million a year, for a total consideration of approximately $516 million.
Renovating Belmont Park and moving Aqueduct racing there will free up acreage for Resorts World New York City, which is currently a racino but is a heavy favorite for one of the three full-scale integrated casino resort licenses allocated for the downstate region.
Resorts World is on the Aqueduct campus. The racino’s parent company, Malaysia-based Genting Group, is considered a front-runner along with MGM Resorts’ Empire City Casino in Yonkers for two of the licenses.
If the Aqueduct goes away as planned, Genting says there would be adequate land to expand the racino into a full-scale casino resort with a second on-site hotel, plus the addition of a spa, convention center, entertainment offerings, and other typical resort amenities.
New Racing, Events Center
NYRA officials say the new Belmont Park grandstand will be “right-sized” and be accompanied by a modern clubhouse. The renovation is projected to generate a $1 billion local economic impact with 3,700 construction jobs and 740 additional full-time jobs for the track once completed.
The NYRA expects construction to take three years. Along with racing, the new Belmont Park will be fitted to accommodate events such as business gatherings and weddings.
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