NYRA Needs State-Backed Bonds for Belmont Park Redevelopment

The redevelopment of Belmont Park will not go ahead without state-backed bonds, representatives of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) told legislators Wednesday, reported Daily Racing Forum.

Smaller Building Means More Green Space

NYRA’s ambitions redevelopment plans include the construction of a new, smaller building to open up more green space and the renovation of the three racing surfaces, while the association also considers the installation of a synthetic surface to ensure all types of racing at one facility.

NYRA’s senior director of government affairs Jeff Cannizzo confirmed the association would be funding the redevelopment using its capital improvement funds derived from VLT revenue at the Aqueduct racino, but it needs the state-backed bonds as the project would go past NYRA’s franchise that is set to expire in 2033.

“Once we receive that backing to utilize our own capital funds over the course of the next 30 years, we can completely redo Belmont Park.”

Jeff Cannizzo, Senior Director, Government Affairs, NYRA

Speaking at a hearing held by the State Assembly Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering, Cannizzo and NYRA CEO and president Dave O’Rourke further outlined their vision for the redevelopment of Belmont Park.

As Belmont Park “was built for a different era in racing,” a much smaller building would create more green space and will offer the property opportunities for joint projects with the built in its backyard UBS Arena that is the new home of the New York Islanders and becomes a stage for concerts, college basketball matches and wrestling events, O’Rourke noted.

Not going into details as to how large the building would be or how much green space it would open, O’Rourke outlined the association was aiming to create “synergistic entertainment and food and beverage offerings” that will allow the concert audience to get involved with a few races “before they head off to the main event.”

On his behalf, Cannizzo said NYRA needs the approval to build a tunnel without which it cannot move construction vehicles infield and start the renovations of the 1 ½-mile main track and its two turf courses as renovation works must go ahead.

Synthetic Surface and Mobile Sports Wagering

NYRA’s plan to construct a synthetic surface, conduct racing on a year-round basis and free up Aqueduct to allow the state to pursue other economic opportunities was strongly opposed by the committee chair Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who was concerned about the safety of the horses.

“If our strategy, which it is, is to introduce our product to the casual sports fan that’s used to sports wagering, proposition bets, fixed-odds would help that transition as an entry product. We believe these can live side by side.”

Dave O’Rourke, President and CEO, NYRA

NYRA’s representatives also referred to the opportunity to combine mobile sports wagering with racing as the association seeks to have its NYRA Bets advance deposit wagering on the same platform as mobile sports betting and expressed their support for a bill introduced by State Sen. Joseph Addabbo that would allow for fixed-odds to be offered on horse racing.

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