The Belmont Park redevelopment plan is officially off to the races.
Gov. Kathy Hochul and other state lawmakers gave approval to a $455 million loan that will fund the complete modernization of the 118-year-old horse racing facility in Elmont.
The New York Racing Association plans to demolish Belmont Park, on Hempstead Turnpike, rebuild it from scratch and transform the racetrack into a winterized facility complete with a new clubhouse and grandstand — all at no cost to taxpayers, officials said. The group plans to borrow the money from the state and pay it off over the course of 20 years using state-backed bonds.
Several elected officials, NYRA representatives and community leaders gathered in the winner’s circle at the racetrack on May 4 — opening day — to announce the momentous step in the facility’s history.
“This is an exciting chapter for the community, for Belmont Park — it’s such a great opportunity to redevelop something that is so prominent in the world, in the country,” Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages said. “This is really an investment into New York state, into racing and into the community.”
Jack Sterne, a representative of We Are NY Horse Racing, previously told the Herald that the horse racing industry has had a $3 billion impact on the state’s economy.
The sport itself has created 19, 000 state jobs, and the redevelopment project would create roughly $1 billion of economic activity during the rebuilding process and roughly 3, 700 construction jobs, officials said.
After the facility is built, it would fetch $155 million of economic activity annually and sustain 740 new full-time jobs, Sterne said.
“It’s a great opportunity, not only for Belmont, for the entire Elmont community,” Bob Parker, president of the Locustwood/Gotham Civic Association, said. “Elmont will be transformed with this new project — I think it’s important for us not to lose sight here and look at how it’s going to benefit this community.”
Home of the Belmont Stakes — the final jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown — Belmont Park has been at the center of some of the most exciting moments in sports history, including Secretariat’s riveting Triple Crown win in 1973. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that triumphant victory.
A revamped Belmont Park could potentially make its own history with the possibility of luring the Breeders’ Cup back to New York, officials said. Known to fans as the Super Bowl of horse racing, the event was last hosted at Belmont Park in 2005, and has not returned due to the venue’s aging infrastructure.
Beyond these outward renovations to Belmont, the racing association also plans to expand and modernize the facility’s backstretch housing and barns throughout the property.
In recent years, two dormitories have been completed at Belmont and dozens of other residential cottages and buildings have been renovated.
NYRA is set to break ground on its third new dormitory in the fall, which will support the backstretch community living and working at Belmont.
The 15-member Belmont Park Local Advisory Board is also fully established and held its first meeting last month. This board ensures that community members have a voice in the project and direct access to information about Belmont Park.
Patrick McKenna, an NYRA spokesman, previously told the Herald these advisory board meetings are not open to the public, but there will be other opportunities for community members to participate in listening sessions, town hall meetings and other venues.
Julie Marchesella, the Elmont Chamber of Commerce president, said she is “thrilled” to witness the economic growth the project will spur in the area. At the May 4 news conference, she urged state legislators to support the installation of a LED-light “Welcome to Elmont” sign on the corner of Hempstead Turnpike.
“About 12 years ago, the Elmont Chamber of Commerce, along with the entire community of Elmont, civic associations, churches, temples, the schools, put together a vision plan of what we wanted to see for the growth of Elmont,” Marchesella said. “We are delighted that NYRA will be revitalized, and this will be a center for horse racing downstate.”