The Islanders have submitted their bid to develop the land at Belmont Park, according to Newsday. The Islanders were answering a request for proposal put out on August 1 by New York State.
The Islanders told the paper that they are putting forth “a comprehensive proposal to create a world-class sports and entertainment destination at Belmont Park. They added: “We look forward to discussing with the Empire State Development Corporation.”
The Islanders aren’t the only group expected to bid and it has already been confirmed that their first major opponent in the RFP will be New York City Football Club, also known as NYCFC. The Major League Soccer club, now in it’s third season, has played its home games at Yankee Stadium.
The Blumenfeld Development Group is also expect to bid on the site, according to Newsday. Blumenfeld had previously bid on the site during two previous RFPs and had been working with Bruce Ratner to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum before there was a falling out between the two parties.
The NYCFC bid may be the most formidable considering the scope of the RFP put out by the state at the end of July. Part of the RFP states that bids should “enhance Belmont Park to become one of Long Island’s premier destinations for entertainment, sports, hospitality and retail, with uses that are complementary to the existing Belmont Park racetrack.”
A new soccer arena would fit that bill, but so would a new hockey arena.
In an ironic turn of events the two bids pit New York’s two baseball teams up against one another. The New York Yankees own a stake in NYCFC, along with majority owners City Football Group, and the Islanders are working with Sterling Project Development, which is run by the owners of the New York Mets.
The Islanders are also working with arena consulting and development firm Oak View Group, which has ties to Madison Square Garden.
There appears to be a caveat to the NYCFC bid, Belmont is not their ideal choice. And according to a New York Times report there are four other sites the soccer club is eyeing for a stadium.
The team is looking at two sites in Willets Point, a spot in the Bronx and a site near Yankee Stadium. The nine acre piece of land near Yankee Stadium was a site that looked promising for a Stadium several years ago, but a deal fell apart. That site appears to be back in play for NYCFC, according to the New York Times report.
The Islanders and NYCFC are in a similar position as far as their current home venues go. NYCFC has played in Yankee Stadium since their inaugural season and has generated criticism from players and fans about the field configuration. And a scheduling conflict with the Yankees forced NYCFC to play a home game earlier this month in Hartford, Connecticut in front of a rather small crowd.
Attempts to build a stadium of their own have failed to come to fruition.
The Islanders, well, their arena history has been pretty well documented. Attempts to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum, in the forms of the Lighthouse Project and a referendum, stalled or were voted down. The move to Barclays Center in 2015 has yielded mixed reviews, with issues of seating, attendance, ice conditions and atmosphere becoming a constant topic.
A preseason game at the renovated Nassau Coliseum this month reignited fans imaginations about a potential return to the team’s former home, but a number of issues still remain with the renovated building. The seating capacity at Nassau Coliseum remains well below NHL standards, only 11 suits were renovated with the rest of the building, the concourse remains cramped, the locker rooms are not nearly big enough for an NHL team and the Islanders would remain a tenant of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment.
The relationship between the Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment has been rocky and the team’s ownership does not seem keen on returning to the Coliseum.
The Islanders and NYCFC bids will be the third time a sports team has tried to bid to develop a sports venue at the Belmont site in recent memory. The New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League bid twice to build a 25,000 seat
Their situation was a bit different from the Islanders’, and even NYCFC’s, situation. The Cosmos, while a historic franchise, had not been in existence for 30 years before resurfacing in 2013. The club has struggled to attract fans, nearly folded after last season and plays in a league that is about to have its second division status taken away by the US Soccer Federation.
Both RFPs the Cosmos bid on were scrapped by New York State.
What happens next is in the hands of the state. The Islanders are running out of options for where they will play going forward. Perhaps they renegotiate a deal with Barclays and stay in the city or, by some long shot, the team returns to Uniondale, but an arena at Belmont appears to be the team’s best option. All they have to do is have luck go their way.