COVID-19 brings to standstill Belmont Park construction work


Belmont Park April 2020 update Image: NHL/NY Islanders

COVID-19 has literally pressed the pause button on a new arena project for the New York Islanders’ National Hockey League (NHL) ice hockey team.

The New York Islanders are a professional ice hockey team based in the New York metropolitan area. The Islanders are one of the three NHL franchises in the New York metropolitan area, along with the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, and their fan base resides primarily on Long Island in New York, US.

The Islanders are currently building a new 19,000-seat arena as part of the $1.3bn (£1bn/€1.2bn) Belmont Park redevelopment project.

Ground was broken in September and the arena has been scheduled to open in October 2021, the start of the Islanders’ 2021-22 seasons. Coronavirus could lead to delay in opening of the facility, though an official with the real estate advisory firm Sterling Project Development, which is spearheading the construction work, said that’s not necessarily the case.

“If construction restarts within a reasonable period, we expect to maintain our schedule and for the arena to be open for the 2021-22 NHL seasons,” Richard Browne, Sterling’s Managing Partner, said in a statement.

Belmont Park Arena is the tentative name of a $1.3 billion multipurpose arena under construction and development in Elmont, New York. Completion is expected in 2021. The arena will serve as the home of the New York Islanders of the NHL.

The arena is scheduled to open in time for the 2021-22 NHL season but work was halted following New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expanding his temporary shutdown of non-essential projects in order to focus on building four new hospitals in the New York City area.

Commented Islanders’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello, “We support Governor Cuomo’s efforts to eliminate the Covid-19 virus. He has been the driving force behind the construction of Belmont Park Arena. The progress that has been made since the groundbreaking is truly incredible and is a credit to all of the construction workers that have been there every day. Those workers are all a part of our community and we want them safe and healthy.”

In his daily address to the State, Governor Cuomo didn’t elaborate on what is and isn’t essential construction, but a release from Empire State Development clearly lays out what is and isn’t essential.

The release clearly stated, “Essential construction may continue and includes roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or healthcare facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters. Whether this presents a delay for the opening of the Belmont Arena for a scheduled opening for the 2021-22 seasons doesn’t matter. Right now, what matters is that everyone follows the direction of the State.”

“The Belmont Arena will be built, there’s no question on that. The New York Islanders will have a new home to call their own and it will be on Long Island. There’s no question that this is the right call to make and whatever happens to the Isles new arena at Belmont Park right now is well behind that. It’s not a priority right now,” the release further stated.

“I hope you are all staying healthy, following what comes from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and are practicing social distancing (or physical distancing) as my Municipal Government wants me to call it,” the release quoting Cuomo stated.

Presently, the Islanders split their games between Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. The Coliseum previously served as the Islanders’ home for 30 years before the team moved to Barclays Center in 2015.

Since the ‘Isles’ have spent long years at the Coliseum, Long Island is viewed as the Islanders’ spiritual home and in March the team revealed that it would play all of its home games at the Coliseum during the 2020-21 campaign ahead of its move to Belmont Park the following season. The move was made possible after $6m in State-funded upgrades facilitated the Coliseum to measure up to the requisite NHL standards.

The Belmont Park project which covers an extensive range will also comprise 250-room hotel and 350,000 square feet of retail space. The development is expected to generate 10,000 construction jobs and support 3,200 full-time jobs once completed. The $1.3 billion project also includes the 17,113-seat arena and there will also be a new Elmont station on the LIRR to service the site.

The arena project is being privately funded by New York Arena Partners, which is made up of Islanders’ principal owner Scott Malkin, Mets Chief Operating Officer (CEO) Jeff Wilpon and Oak View Group (CEO) Tim Leiweke.

Brian Kabatznick of Oak View Group Intl., UK, will be one of the speakers at the Coliseum Summit Europe to be held at Ascot Racecourse in UK on September 2-3, 2020.

Coronavirus curse has also brought to a standstill work on a new stadium for Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise Austin FC due to restrictions surrounding construction projects.

Austin FC is a professional soccer franchise based in Austin, Texas. Austin FC will compete in MLS in 2021, and their new stadium – the soccer-specific Austin FC Stadium – will also go on stream in north central Austin the same year.

The 20,500-seat stadium is due to open in the spring of 2021 ahead of Austin FC’s inaugural MLS season. Austin was awarded an MLS franchise in January 2019 and the team broke ground on the stadium last September.

The New York State is taking slew of measures to flatten the curve during the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus cases are soaring in the US with New York worst hit. Virus deaths in New York have hit a new high with 731 people losing their lives on Monday.

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