Belmont Park Backed for Renovations with $455M New York Racing Association Loan
New York lawmakers have this week approved a $455 million loan to the New York Racing Association for a complete overhaul of the iconic Belmont Park horse racing track in Long Island.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) is expected to sign off on the loan shortly. She confirmed that during the budget meeting that included discussion of the issue.
Belmont Park hosts the annual Belmont Stakes, part of US horse racing’s Triple Crown of major races.
The funds will finance the complete demolition and rebuild of the grandstand and clubhouse, both transforming to a smaller size with modern specifications.
Transformation for the Future
The New York Horse Racing Association (NYRA) owns and operates the track with state oversight. It also runs two other racetracks in New York state, Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs and Aqueduct in the New York City borough of Queens.
Upon completion of the renovation, NYRA is planning to cease operations at Aqueduct and combine its racing calendar with that of the new Belmont Park.
“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, CEO at the NYRA, in a company statement.
The NYRA will pay back the $455 million loan over 20 years at “up to $25.8 million” a year.
“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 Long Island Association President Matt Cohen.
The site will be downsized from 1.25 million square-feet to 275,000. However, more potential spectators will be accommodated by the overall redesign.
Underground pedestrian tunnels and modern designs will ensure a larger capacity infield area for busy Belmont Stakes weekends and throughout the season. It will also open up more green space around the site for locals.
Construction of the new Belmont Park is expected to take three years. NYRA says that means more than 3,000 construction jobs and a further 750 full-time positions once the renovated track opens.
The new combined operation is projected to bring in $1 billion to the local community over the 20-year loan period.
Prestigious horse racing championship race series The Breeder’s Cup has also expressed interest in holding events at Belmont Park again once renovation is completed. The last time Belmont or any other New York venue hosted a Breeder’s Cup race was in 2005.
There may be other motivations for the termination of racing at Aqueduct and the renovations at Belmont.
Currently, the Aqueduct race course is on the same site as the Resorts World New York City racino. If horse racing closes down and moves to Belmont, it will free up land for expansion of the casino site by its owner, Genting Group.
Resorts World is widely expected to be given one of the three new casino licenses in New York, as legal gambling already operates there in some capacity.
The Malaysia-based Genting is looking to spend $1 billion on its expanded casino resort if given a license. As we reported recently, it sold off vacant land in Miami in anticipation of investing in New York.
The other racetrack casino, MGM Resorts’ Empire City in Yonkers, is also a front-runner for a casino gaming license.