A new venue battle lead by James Dolan and Tim Leiweke’s Oak View Group is taking shape in New York City, but this time the rival is not AEG. OVG is in competition with the New York Yankees’ Steinbrenner family over 43 acres of underutilized parking lots at Belmont Park, just outside of Queens on Long Island.
OVG wants to build a new arena on the site for the New York Islanders hockey team, which is unhappy with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where the team has played the last two seasons after relocating from Nassau Coliseum that the Barclays Center now operates. The Steinbrenner family wants to build an MLS soccer stadium on the site for their New York City FC soccer team, which currently plays at Yankee Stadium.
Both companies have submitted proposals to the Empire State Development agency for the site, as well as a third proposal by a development group that hasn’t publicly specified what they plan to do (many believe a combination of retail and restaurants), while Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano offered up Belmont as a possible site for Amazon’s second headquarters, although that now seems unlikely.
The Islanders project is organized under an umbrella group called New York Arena Partners and includes Sterling Project Development, (controlled by the Wilpon family, who own of the New York Mets), as well as Dolan and OVG. Another arena, just seven miles from the recently reopened Nassau Coliseum, would bring the total number of arenas in the city to five and add further fuel to what is already a hyper-competitive concert space with Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum competing against Madison Square Garden and the Prudential Center, which recently signed a booking partnership with MSG.
There’s also doubts about whether Leiweke and Dolan are serious about spending hundreds of millions to build the city’s fifth arena, or simply trying to apply pressure to the Barclays Center. As for Brooklyn, hosting the Islanders hasn’t been financially successful and in January someone leaked out a report showing the arena would make more money doing concerts that hosting the team. Attendance for the Islanders is abysmal — it’s the third worst in the league, and many players have complained about the quality of the ice, which some say might have caused an injury in April for Islanders captain John Tavares.
The Barclays-Islanders agreement is also a bit unusual — the arena pays the team an average of $53.5 million a year in exchange for control of business operations, which includes revenue from ticket and suite sales. The lease can be terminated by either the Islanders or arena management. If the team cancels, it can leave after the current 2017-18 season. If Barclays Center cancels the lease, then the Islanders would leave after the 2018-19 season.
The site has been considered for potential development for a number of years — in July, the Empire State agency issued a new request for proposals to redevelop the 43-acre site currently used as a parking lot for the Belmont Park horse track, home to the Belmont Stakes which is part of the Triple Crown of horse racing that also includes the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Bids for the site were due yesterday (Sept. 28).
As for the Steinbrenner-owned soccer team, the Belmont location is reportedly one of four sites the team is considering for its own stadium. The team is also considering locations in Harlem and the Bronx, as well as two sites in Willets Point, Queens. New York City F.C. is jointly owned by City Football Group, which owns the Premier League club Manchester City, and the Yankees. The team has been looking for a permanent home for a number of years – the soccer configuration at Yankee Stadium has been criticized by some players for being too narrow. Despite the conditions, the team’s attendance has been on the rise, increasing from 27,000 in 2016 to 29,000 this year.
Although there is no concrete timetable for awarding the RFP, many believe an answer could come by late November or December. The Islanders’ deadline to negotiate with the Barclays Center closes in January, so they’ll be pushing for an answer on Belmont before then.