NHL Islanders look to Belmont Park for new arena: Partnering with developers for project proposal

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The Belmont Park racetrack, which Empire State Development has sought RFPs for a major redevelopment -- of interest to the New York Islanders NHL hockey team

The New York Islanders are committed to building an arena at Belmont Park, co-owner Jon Ledecky says.

Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin are part of a group known as New York Arena Partners, LLC, which also includes Sterling Project Development and the Oak View Group. Sterling Project Development is controlled by the Wilpon family, which owns the New York Mets, NHL.com reports.

Oak View Group has helped in the design and construction of arenas across North America.

Ledecky said he’s unsure of how long it will be before Empire State Development, which will determine what will be built at Belmont, decides on the winning bid. Most estimates appear to be in the range of four to six months.

Belmont Park is in Elmont, NY, on the border of Nassau County and Queens.

“We have not received any formal or informal communication about a timeline,” Ledecky said at a Manhattan media luncheon. “We obviously hope it will be sooner rather than later and we would hope that our proposal is the best proposal. We don’t know if they’ve seen three or 10 or five, but we certainly put a lot of time and resources and effort and the arena partnership group did in making a first-class presentation.

“We didn’t just throw a piece of paper across the room. We really were thoughtful. Obviously from a self-interested perspective, we think we’re the best and we want to send that message to the community, to the media, to our fans, to our constituents through all the different areas, the players, that we’re singularly focused on this and we’ve spent the resources. We want to win. We want Belmont to be our permanent home.”

Ledecky said the Islanders are contractually obligated to play this season and next at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where they began play at the start of the 2015-16 season after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

He wouldn’t comment on where the Islanders would play in the interim should they receive the go-ahead to build an arena at Belmont. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said on multiple occasions that the Coliseum is not a viable option.

“We’re focused on getting that shovel in the ground and move forward on Belmont,” Ledecky said. “We’re not concerned at all (about the interim). Our concern and our focus should be on Belmont. Off of that, everything else becomes clear. We either get Belmont or we don’t get Belmont. That’s exactly our focus — to get Belmont.

“Barclays is a wonderful place. Unfortunately at the time it was built, they decided not to configure it for hockey. Nassau Coliseum is a lovely spot, but the commissioner of the NHL is on public record saying it’s not viable for an NHL team. You have to have a focus on a place that will be our home, which is Belmont Park.”

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Jon Ledecky and the New York Islanders. (Images: NHL.com)

Ledecky said he’s visited every arena in the NHL, including practice facilities, with hopes of giving his players the best experience possible and have a better idea of what he wants to accomplish at Belmont should the Islanders win the bid.

Ledecky believes should the Islanders win the bid, it would take roughly 20 months for the arena to be built. He also said there have been preliminary discussions to improve mass transit at Belmont, which does have a Long Island Rail Road station but would require some upgrading.