Fans anxious to see shovels in the ground can rejoice. The Isles just took a giant step toward Belmont.

On Thursday, August 8, the New York Islanders passed another hurdle facing the team’s future home in Belmont. The Empire State Development (ESD) board unanimously approved the project, which includes a 19,000-seat arena, 350,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, a 250-room hotel, and parking on 43-acres of empty state-owned property at Belmont Park.

The total value of the development proposal is $1.3 billion, with the arena costing $955 million. Governor Cuomo also announced plans last month for a new LIRR train station to service the new arena. It will be attached to the north parking lot of Belmont Park.

Although many residents of the Floral Park community continue to voice concerns over the expected noise levels, increased traffic, and proximity of the new train station to homes and a local elementary school, the testimonials presented at Thursday’s ESD decision meeting in Manhattan were mostly in support of the project. Several Elmont residents appreciate the 3,200 jobs the project will create. According to Newsday Sports, the developers promise to fill 30 percent of the project’s positions with people living within a four-mile radius around Belmont.

Of course, while the Empire State Development board’s support is a huge factor to the project, it is not the last one. Before the Islanders can schedule a ground-breaking ceremony, approval is required from the Franchise Oversight Board, which oversees the New York Racing Association and Belmont Park, regarding the state’s environmental review. This Board will meet Tuesday afternoon in Albany to discuss the project, and a decision is expected within a few weeks. The ESD’s official decision also began the 120-day period (from August 8 to December 6) for opponents of the project to file lawsuits intended to stop the project.

Jon Ledecky, Islanders co-owner who has put a lot of effort into bringing the Isles back to Long Island after the late Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project unfortunately failed, became emotional at the end of Thursday’s meeting. Speaking directly to the ESD board, he said, “It’s been a two-year journey and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.” He later told Newsday, “It’s been a long journey, and I think that the fans deserve a new home.”

The project is currently on-schedule and anticipated to open for the 2021-22 season.

Featured Image: New York Arena Partners, LLC/New York Islanders
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