Posted: May 2, 2023
Budget bills released by Gov. Kathy Hochul, the state Senate and state Assembly include Revenue Article VII Bill (S4009-C/A.3009-C), which contains language authorizing the New York Racing Association to utilize a $455 million loan to build new Thoroughbred racing facilities at Belmont Park.
With state approval secured, NYRA will embark on the most significant racetrack construction projects in modern memory, all at no cost to taxpayers. The centerpiece of the re-imagined Belmont will be a new building that will completely replace the existing grandstand and clubhouse.
NYRA is committed to working with organized labor to construct a building that properly reflects the evolution of Thoroughbred racing and wagering since Belmont was last renovated in 1968. Accordingly, NYRA will replace the existing 1.25 million-square-foot structure with a roughly 275,000-square-foot facility featuring the modern amenities and hospitality offerings fans now expect from major sports and entertainment venues.
“The transformation of Belmont Park will secure the future of Thoroughbred racing in New York State, create thousands of good jobs and drive tourism to Long Island and the region for decades to come,” NYRA President and Chief Executive Officer David O’Rourke said. “We thank Gov. Hochul and our legislative leaders for recognizing the importance of this project to the countless New York families and small businesses reliant on a strong horse racing economy.”
NYRA thanked Sen. Joe Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow for their collective efforts to advance this project as the respective chairs of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Racing, Wagering and Gaming. NYRA also thanked Sen. Leroy Comrie and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages for supporting and advocating for a new Belmont throughout the process.
The new Belmont grandstand will dramatically increase the amount of parkland available to fans throughout the year by expanding the current Belmont backyard. And because of the vehicular and pedestrian tunnels that will soon allow access to the 45-acre Belmont infield for the first time, the new facility will provide fans and the surrounding community with more open space than ever before.
“NYRA is committed to building a world-class venue that honors the history and traditions of this iconic property within a modernized overall facility,” O’Rourke said. “We will deliver a revitalized Belmont Park that will reclaim its place as a global capital of Thoroughbred horse racing.”
Beyond these fan-facing improvements to Belmont, NYRA will expand its ongoing campaign to modernize backstretch housing and barn area facilities throughout the property—and build more new housing than at any point in the organization’s history. In recent years, NYRA has completed two new dormitories at Belmont while successfully renovating dozens of residential cottages and buildings. In the fall of 2023, NYRA will break ground on a third new dormitory to support the backstretch community living and working at Belmont.
According to an analysis performed by HR&A Advisors, the multi-year project to build a new Belmont will generate $1 billion in construction-related economic impact and create 3,700 construction-related jobs. Upon completion of the project, additional racing and non-racing activities at the new Belmont will generate $155 million in annual economic output, support 740 new full-time jobs, and produce $10 million in new state and local tax revenue per year.
The addition of a winterized building paired with new racing surfaces and a synthetic track will result in a facility suitable to host thoroughbred racing on a year-round basis. When complete, the redevelopment will allow NYRA to consolidate all downstate racing and training activities at the new Belmont, unlocking 110 acres of New York State-owned land at Aqueduct Racetrack for development opportunities. Located adjacent to JFK Airport and on a major public transit line, the Aqueduct parcel was recently appraised at a value of $1 billion.
A new and re-imagined Belmont will guarantee the return of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to New York after a lengthy absence. In November, Breeders’ Cup announced its commitment to add Belmont to the rotation of host venues following NYRA’s modernization of the facility.
Despite the prominent role played in the year-end championships by New York based trainers, jockeys, and owners, the Breeders’ Cup has not been held at Belmont since 2005 due to the facility’s aging infrastructure and lack of winterized hospitality options.