The question of what to do with the vastly underutilized 430 acres of Belmont Park has bedeviled residents, politicians and urban planners for years.
Last May, the main topic at an Elmont economic summit was how to best redevelop the sprawling park, which is closed more than 300 days each year. Previous plans have included casino gambling and entertainment complexes.
But the Belmont question may have an answer at long last, as the reinvigorated New York Cosmos soccer franchise proposed a plan to the Empire State Development Corporation last week to build a new, privately funded, 25,000-seat soccer stadium at the park. The $400 million plan includes nine new restaurants, 250,000 square feet of retail space, a 175-room hotel and a 4.3-acre public park.
“Our proposal presents a rare opportunity to bring a legendary soccer club back to New York while creating a vibrant community destination and job creator for Elmont’s residents,” said Seamus O’Brien, chairman and CEO of the Cosmos. “We believe Belmont Park is an ideal location. It connects us to a loyal soccer fan base and offers great transportation connections.”
Prior to the team’s announcement last year that it was joining the reformed North American Soccer League, the Cosmos had been inactive as a soccer franchise for nearly 30 years. The original NASL operated from 1968 to 1984. The new Cosmos are scheduled to play in the second-tier, limited-budget, 12-team NASL this season. The team will reportedly play at Hofstra University’s old football stadium in Hempstead.
The Cosmos’ storied history dates back to the team’s founding in 1971, when its colorful star players included greats such as Brazil’s Pele, Italy’s Giorgio Chinaglia and West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer. The team stopped competing in 1985 due to a combination of low attendance and financial problems, but it was revived in 2010 after being sold to an English company.
Team officials say that the stadium project would create more than 500 construction jobs and more than 3,000 full-time permanent jobs.