Cohen: New York needs to bet on renovated Belmont

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Long Island is famous for many important historic milestones – we built the lunar module, hosted Charles Lindbergh’s first solo transatlantic flight, and Secretariat’s record-setting triple crown happened at Belmont Park in 1973. Belmont Park is a part of our history, but that facility has not received an upgrade since 1968 – the year before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

Through this year’s state budget process, our leaders in Albany have the opportunity to rehabilitate a globally recognized facility that could have a positive benefit for the entire state of New York. On the table is a $455 million loan for the New York Racing Association to modernize Belmont Park, which will be paid back in full, with interest. Here is why the Long Island Association, our region’s leading non-profit and non-partisan business organization, supports the project to modernize Belmont.

Our region is synonymous with American thoroughbred horse racing — in fact, some of the first organized races on American soil were hosted right here on Long Island. In 1905, Belmont Park opened in Nassau County and was immediately heralded as the New York Times as “… the biggest thing in the shape of a race course that has ever been conceived and achieved.” For more than a century, the track has hosted history-making races and powered our regional economy. In fact, every year, the Belmont Stakes generates $10 million in economic activity for our county and local businesses.

The outdated facilities at Belmont are holding the track back from reaching its full potential.

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Just take the Breeders’ Cup World Championship — thoroughbred horse racing’s major year-end event — for example. This weeklong celebration rotates between tracks across the nation, but it hasn’t visited New York since 2005 due to the lack of modern hospitality offerings at Belmont. Instead, communities in Kentucky and California have benefited from the immense economic impact of racing’s pinnacle event. The event’s organizers have committed to returning to the Empire State if Belmont is modernized — bringing an estimated $100 million in economic impact every few years.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

This project is expected to generate more than $1 billion in construction-related economic activity and create 3,700 construction-related jobs — economic activity that will lift up everyone from union workers to small business owners and suppliers. After the new Belmont is built, it’s anticipated to support 740 net new jobs and sustain $155 million in new annual economic output.

Building a modernized Belmont Park will also strengthen the entire sport of horse racing, which is responsible for 19,000 jobs across New York and $3 billion in annual economic activity. That means a brighter future for everyone that touches the sport of horse racing — including grooms, gardeners, and security guards at Belmont Park; restaurants and hotels across Nassau County; nearly a dozen thoroughbred breeding farms on Long Island; and thousands more New Yorkers across the state. Paired with the Islanders’ new UBS Arena next door, a modernized Belmont Park would create a pre-eminent national sports and hospitality destination.

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At the LIA, Long Island’s future is our business. And one part of ensuring the economy remains bright in our region and across our state is modernizing Belmont Park.

 

Matthew Cohen is president & CEO of the Long Island Association



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