The New York Racing Association is planning to tear down the existing Belmont Park grandstand and build a smaller, year-round facility approximately one-fifth the size of the current grandstand. The association is set to receive a loan of $455 million for the project under bills that were passed by the state legislature on Monday, following negotiations between legislature leaders and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The bills are part of a package of legislation authorizing elements of the state budget. They are certain to be signed by Hochul over the next week, reports DRF, as legislature leaders and the governor had given their support to the project prior to the proposal being passed. Under the bills, once the construction is complete, NYRA will give up its lease to Aqueduct racetrack, and downstate racing will be consolidated at Belmont. The state owns the deeds to both tracks.
Under the plan, NYRA will pay back the loan to the state over a 20-year period, using revenue the association receives from casino gambling. The bill sets the annual payment for the debt service at “up to $25.8 million.” The legislation also requires NYRA to adhere to certain guarantees for union jobs and the improvement of backstretch housing at Belmont.
“A 21st Century, state-of-the-art Belmont Park will revitalize an iconic destination and give Long Islanders the world-class facility they deserve,” said Matt Cohen, president of the Long Island Association, as per the cited source. “With this substantial investment, we look forward to partnering with NYRA to consolidate all of the downstate racing at Belmont and realize its untapped potential to spur economic growth not only on Long Island but the entire region.”
The New York Racing Association and state racing constituencies had been lobbying for the plan for two years, and praised Monday’s approval. NYRA has said that the plan would strengthen the year-round racing circuit while allowing the sport to better compete with other entertainment options.
“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 David O’Rourke, NYRA’s chief executive, in a statement on Monday.
The Breeders’ Cup intends to add Belmont Park to its rotation of host sites if the renovations are carried out. NYRA last hosted a Breeders’ Cup event in 2005, at Belmont Park. The association has already started construction of some elements of the plan, including a tunnel connecting an area on the Belmont property to the infield and the installation of an artificial racing surface inside the Belmont turf courses.