The Belmont Stakes may take a different course over the next two years.
Moving the third leg of the Triple Crown race remains subject to the approval of the Franchise Oversight Board and state’s gaming commission. This would allow for “uninterrupted construction of a new and completely re-imagined Belmont Park,” Patrick McKenna, NYRA vice president of communications, said.
Holding the race in Saratoga Springs would also boost tourism and the economy for upstate New York, officials said. The horse racing industry has had a $3 billion impact on the state economy, Jack Sterne, a representative of We Are NY Horse Racing, previously told the Herald.
The racing association secured a $455 million loan from the state in June to redevelop the historic racetrack in Elmont. The project will be completed at no cost to taxpayers, with the association required to pay back the loan using Video Lottery Terminal capital funds. These funds are guaranteed to flow to the racing association through the life of the franchise.
The Elmont community has advocated for renovations at the park for quite some time because the racetrack provides opportunity for economic development in the area, Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages said.
The new park will generate $1 billion for the economy with 3,700 construction-related jobs. Upon completion of the project, activities held at Belmont Park will support 750 new full-time jobs, produce $10 million annually in new state and local tax revenue, and generate $155 million in yearly economic output.
The facility will receive several improvements during the renovations, including the expansion of open greenery at the park.
When UBS Arena was built, Belmont’s backyard was reduced to about six acres, and the renovated park will boast as much as 35 acres of green space. Tunnels for vehicle and pedestrian travel will provide more open space as fans access the Belmont infield for the first time with the new system.
The existing 1.25 million square-foot grand stand and clubhouse at the venue will be replaced with a roughly 275,000 square-foot facility, according to officials.
“I think when the grand stands are downsized and modernized, this is going to really provide a new venue, not only for the community but for the country to embrace thoroughbred racing,” Solages said.
Year-round thoroughbred racing will be possible at the renovated park as a winterized building, new racing surfaces and a synthetic track are built. This will allow the racing association to consolidate all downstate horse racing and training activities at Belmont Park.
As a result, 110 acres of land owned by the state at Aqueduct Racetrack, recently appraised at $1 billion, will be open for development opportunities.
While the Belmont Stakes race has had a great impact on the Elmont region’s economy, especially when a Triple Crown candidate is running, Solages said this temporary move is for the greater good.
Along with the renovations, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be welcomed back to New York for the first time since 2005. Officials announced in November that Belmont would be added to the host venue rotation for the cup following the facility’s modernization.
“I imagine that this pause that we’re going to take is going to be very beneficial, because now we’re going to be able to attract better races,” Solages said.
“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,” McKenna said.
With the scheduled pause on horse racing at Belmont Park, Solages said that a push for economic development of Hempstead Turnpike in the area could benefit local businesses.
“The town and county need to start getting serious in having conversations,” she said. “They need to start working to make sure that the state knows that they’re serious because there’s other localities that are asking for downtown revitalization monies and initiatives. And I don’t see any locality doing that for Elmont.
“This is really an opportunity for us to go into our community and redevelop our community,” Solages added.
Temporary adjustments will be made to the racing schedule while the 118-year-old facility is re-imagined to rival the finest sports and entertainment destinations in the country, officials said. However, the racing association will not forget its Triple Crown home base.
“Belmont Park will always be the home of the Belmont Stakes,” McKenna said.