We interrupt this Islanders off day with a quick peek at the team’s arena situation.
NO, WAIT! COME BACK! The building is still going up at Belmont Park! I promise! You can watch it right here.
This is just a friendly, FYI sort of update, mostly because we haven’t had one in a long while (which, frankly, has been very, very relaxing).
But Newsday’s Randi Marshall - who’s been all over the team’s arena plight for a long, long time - took a look at over 400-pages of leases, appraisals, documents, tree bark, scribbled-on cocktail napkins and other stuff straight New York state’s construction arm, The Empire State Development. The materials outlined some interesting info related to the arena’s developers - aka the Islanders, arena company Oak View Group and Sterling Equities, the real estate company run by Mets owner Fred Wilpon.
Some of it isn’t exactly surprising; the project should be “substantially completed” by Oct. 5, 2021, allowing the Islanders to begin the 2021-22 season in their new home. Also, should the New York Racing Association, on whose land the arena is building built, decide to bring night racing to Belmont, the races would, “not be scheduled on the same evening as a hockey game.” My condolences to Butch Goring.
In terms of who’s forking over what to who (Whom? Whomst?), Marshall does divulge the terms of the developers’ rent and payment agreements with the state, the NYRA and other local beneficiaries.
Upfront, the lease required the developers to pay $20 million to the state as of Nov. 7, 2019 — a payment that Empire State officials confirmed was received. The developers then will have to pay an additional $20 million as of Nov. 7, 2020, and another $10 million in early 2021. The developers will make rent payments of $2.24 million annually to NYS for 29 years. Payments in lieu of taxes to the state, county, and school and fire districts that will amount to $272 million over 49 years. On top of that, the developer will pay the New York Racing Association $1.85 million a year for use of three parking lots. But with about 5,000 parking spots total, the developers likely can make more than 10 times that money.
The lease also spells out the developers’ financing plans, outlining two loans: a $540 million building loan mortgage, and a $60 million project loan mortgage. Both are being provided by Bank of America.
(My favorite part of this is, “a payment that Empire State officials confirmed was received.” In the past, there are few things more unmistakably Islanders than money mysteriously not getting to where it’s supposed to be. So this is a big change of pace for the franchise that Marshall expertly notes).
Also noted is how, per the lease, any newly built arena on state land is forbidden from hosting any professional hockey games. In fact, the state cannot provide land to any new, large multi-use facilities within a five-mile radius of the Belmont Arena. I’m not sure that any were in danger of being built, but I guess it would need to be on private land.
Finally, although specifics aren’t given, the lease does contain parameters of naming rights, including what the developers are allowed to offer the rights to. Anyone that’s been to any arena in the last decade knows that every inch of every venue has been sold to some corporate sponsor, some well known and some... not. We have no idea what the arena itself will be named at this point, let alone who the ice surface, lounges, VIP entrances or bathrooms will be sponsored by, but you can bet it’s already being discussed.
Marshall suggests the lease’s lender - Bank of America - could be a potential namesake of the new arena. That’s kinda boring. I’m hoping for something a little closer to home.
If you are looking for some bad news, well here ya go: The village of Floral Park last week filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court alleging that a “master plan” for the property was hatched between the state, the New York Racing Association and the team’s developers prior to the July 2017 Request for Proposals for the site, which would make the entire RFP process unfair. The
head of [ed.: er, spokesman for. Pardon the inadvertent promotion] Empire State Developments calls the gambit a “hail mary” attempt to derail the project. One lawyer said the Belmont project is, “a deal made in a smoke-filled back room,” which sounds pretty cool, actually.
The coolest sound, of course, will be the sound of thousands of people walking into the building in a little less than two years.