Islanders Belmont Dream Learning From Failed Bid
The New York Islanders have submitted a request for proposal for development but what makes them think they’ll be successful?
We already know that the New York Islanders will be submitting a request for proposal to build a new arena at Belmont Park. What we don’t know is what that plan is going to include.
Luckily we can look back on the most recent failed bid for a New York Cosmos soccer stadium to learn what the Isles might want to do in order to increase their chances of success.
Learning From History
Before the Isles placed their bid of interest there was that ill-fated proposal from the New York Cosmos. A once famous franchise that boasted Pelé as one of its players, but has since subsequently folded and rebirth to play a few levels below that of the MLS.
They’re plan called for a mix-use space and a 25,000 stadium before it was nixed by the state’s Economic Development Agency:
"175-room hotel, nine restaurants, +300,000 square feet retail and entertainment, as well as a world class 25,000-seat professional soccer stadium."
A mix-use space is going to be a bare minimum for the Isles bid. Retail, entertainment, and even housing is going to have to be included just to not get laughed out of the room. But the key is going to be the size of the stadium.
The 25,000 seat plan for the Cosmos drew ire for two reasons. The first is that a team playing in the NASL won’t be able to draw that kind of a crowd. So just how could they afford to pay to keep the lights on?
And then, what about traffic on game days. Even if they could fill the stadium?
"“It’s a bad idea for the region,” said Solages (D-Elmont), who is worried it could create a traffic nightmare for local residents."
A 25,000 seat arena is certainly not in the works for the Isles. That would make them the largest hockey arena in the world by a healthy margin. Currently, it’s the Bell Center at 21,288.
Right now the Islanders have a hard time selling out the Barclays Center. Which sits at the bottom of the league with a hockey capacity of 15,813. Even the Nassau Coliseum, which accommodated 16,234 wasn’t filled to capacity.
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The average NHL rink can house 18,330 fans. An arena between 16,000-18,000 with the ability to increase should the Isles have more fans than seats in the years to come makes sense. More importantly, that lowers the traffic burden by a healthy number.
Don’t Ask For Handout
Anything the Islanders are planning has to be privately funded. The Cosmos stadium, as well as three other bids before the Cosmos, were all privately funded. Asking for taxpayer dollars isn’t going to fly.
That’s where the James Dolan and Wilpon family connection comes in. Two months ago Bloomberg reported that Ledecky and Malkin were discussing a joint venture with the Dolan backed Oak View Group and the Wilpon backed Sterling Project Development.
Asking for taxpayer money won’t fly. When Newsday looked at the potential issues facing the Cosmos Stadium there was already strong feelings about what a Stadium would do for the Elmont community.
"“Stadiums do nothing for the community,” said Pat Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Association, who supports high-end apartments at Belmont. “They bring in people from all over, but that money does not stay here.”"
If the Isles want to increase their chances of getting that brand new hockey-first facility they’ll need to make sure it caters to the people whom will now become their neighbors.
Reducing the traffic burden is going to be a big obstacle. Even thought a new arena will have a much smaller capacity than the Cosmos’ stadium, it’s still thousands of people descending on an area whom weren’t there before.
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They’ll have to pay for it themselves, or with the help of ‘friends’ with equally deep pockets. And they’ll have to make sure it has something for everyone.
Whether that be a mix of one of or all retail, affordable housing, or entertainment. This can’t be a hockey only space.