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Show Ponies: Islanders Belmont plans unveiled including hotel, retail and community center

Hey, I found another horse pun.

149th Belmont Stakes
I’m sure it does.
Photo by Nicole Bello/Getty Images

At a high school in Elmont on a snowy Sunday afternoon, the Islanders and NYCFC unveiled their grand plans for the open land at Belmont Park, presenting to community members exactly what they want to put where.

Newsday has a full breakdown of the meeting at Elmont Memorial High School, complete with live tweets from reporters Randi Marshall, Jim Baumbach and Stefanie Dazio.

It was quieter than the previous gatherings had been, when local folks could step to a mic to voice their support or opposition. Instead, Sunday’s meeting was all about the two pro teams explaining their plans and how they will impact (or not impact) daily life.

So what are those plans? Well, they’re both big and have arenas. Other than that, things are kinda different.

The Islanders’ proposal includes an 18,000-seat, year-round arena that would host 150 events annually, as well as 435,000 square feet of space for retail, a hotel with 200 to 250 rooms, and a 10,000 square-foot “innovation center” that would be developed with input from residents.

NYCFC, a professional soccer team partially owned by the Yankees, is calling for a 26,000-seat open-air stadium in addition to 400,000 square-feet of space for retail, a 5.2-acre community park and a 2-acre soccer facility.

After the meeting, Baumbach tweeted better resolution versions of the slides each team showed and had been captured on blurry cellphone photos.

Both teams will utilize the LIRR station right next to the track, and plan to have it be used year-round. Jobs were also a hot topic, with the Islanders pledging over 5,000 temporary positions and 2,000 permanent ones and NYCFC slightly less on both. Both also said they would use local labor.

That hotel the Islanders have included in their plans seems like a big deal. It’s literally right outside the grandstand and offers views of the track, as well as immediate train access. While both plans include retail complexes, the Islanders have theirs contained on the north side of Hempstead Turnpike, right behind the arena. NYCFC has the stores on the south side, where the Islanders would have their parking lot and community-inspired “Innovation Center.” I don’t know what an “Innovation Center” is but I do know what a soccer field is, which is what NYCFC’s plan has in the same spot. The Islanders also have two entertainment plazas bookending the building.

Here’s what we don’t know yet: how either project will be funded, how long NYCFC’s plan would take to complete (Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky says their plan can start right away and be done in 20 months), or when Empire State Development will make their decision.

Baumbach had some additional notes following the meeting to add a little context.

Marshall, who’s been on this interminable beat longer than anyone, added her thoughts later:

From the outside, it doesn’t seem as if either team really knocked anybody’s socks off, although I’m also not sure that was ever the goal. Both parties have put the community in mind when planning, tackling pre-submitted questions about traffic, jobs and noise. Sterling Equities - the Islanders’ development partner, which is run by Mets owner Fred Wilpon - talked more about how their arena will actually look from the inside, apparently trying to appeal to the Islanders fans in the room, as if they needed a sales pitch.

So now we wait again. But we can start visualizing an Islanders future at Belmont or all the ways it could fall apart. Whichever you prefer.