Previously I had written that an arena at Belmont Park would not happen, and my post was immediately hit with criticism from Islander fans saying I was wrong. To further educate myself on the potential arena, I was invited to the Belmont Park Q and A session at Elmont Public Library on April 24th. Going into the meeting, I wanted to be convinced by the developers of Empire State Development and New York Arena Partners that the Elmont Arena plan is sufficient and that there should be no point of concern for New York Islander fans. Sadly, the meeting further cemented my belief that the Islanders will never drop the puck in Elmont.
Many issues regarding the current plan such as the LIRR and environmental factors have been highly documented in the news. I regret to inform you that there are many more problems associated with the contemporary proposal. First off, the arena is slated to hold about 19,000 people for a concert and 18,000 for an Islanders game.
My best guess for how many parking spaces needed for that amount of people would be around 6,000-10,000 spaces. Belmont Park Arena will have 3,700 parking spaces! Also, at the meeting, the NYAP representative said that most of the parking will be done underground. The largest sector of land is being reserved for a retail department, and honestly, this whole project would be better for a nice mall than an NHL arena.
The parking dilemma leaves about 14,000 Islander fans looking to public transportation in order for fans to see their favorite team play. MTA Chairman Joe Lhota had previously said he was “concerned” over the possibility of Belmont Park train station being able to support so many people. Projections have the train station renovation being completed by around 2032. Fans cannot wait another 14 years for adequate transportation.
Newsday, Long Island Herald, etc. have all posted articles speculating the completion of Elmont Train Station. Oh, by the way, Islander fans, if you are coming from Eastern Long Island, you would have to transfer at Jamaica to get to Elmont. Therefore, you are moving west to go east. It just does not make any sense! Considering the LIRR and parking, fans will have to look to the community streets in order for you to park your car. That will cause a nightmare for the entire Elmont community. Unlike Belmont Park, Ronkonkoma and Nassau could both support enough fans through parking or the train system.
In the current plan, every single major selling point seems to have issues. As I was sitting and listening to the NYAP representatives unveil their updated plan, you could hear concerned fans and community members whispering about the size needed for this plan and the allotted size for the whole project. When I drove home after the meeting, I took the Cross Island Parkway, which will be the main way to get to the Belmont Park Arena if it gets built. You are able to drive right by the Islanders’ land and see how much room they have, and it is not a lot. The sizing of the proposal makes me weary about if and how this entire venture will be completed.
One of the main points I have for why Elmont will be a major failure for the organization and Nassau County, if the arena gets built, is the location of the proposal. The Islanders and their associates are preaching “the Islanders are back on Long Island where they belong.” But Elmont is not really Nassau County. I understand demographically it is, yet the other side of the Cross Island Parkway is Queens.
The Islanders fanbase is centered in Nassau County and Suffolk County. Elmont is about an hour drive from Suffolk County at 7 PM on a weekday. Do you want to drive an hour after work to see the Islanders? Sure, it is better than Barclays Center, but it is still a predicament. The NYAP representative said that the “Belmont Park Arena is the perfect spot for the Islanders to play. It is centrally located in Nassau County”. No, it is really not. The Coliseum is centrally locates in Nassau County — not Elmont.
I reiterate and further strengthen my point that Belmont Park Arena will never be the home of the New York Islanders. I do not wish for this plan to fail. I just believe it is inevitable.
- At the Q and A, there were three chants of “Ronkonkoma! Ronkonkoma!” by New York Islander fans.
- The NYAP and ESD representatives seemed very flustered and shocked whenever an intelligent and well thought-out question was asked, especially about the train station.
- It would make so much more sense for the Nassau Coliseum to undergo another renovation, in which it would have an expanded concourse and an added suite level. It would save so much time and money, plus the fans would be happy.