Horse racing coalition pushes state to modernize Belmont Park

Horse racing coalition pushes state to modernize Belmont Park

Modernizing Belmont Park is at the forefront of the 2023 legislative agenda for We Are N.Y. Horse Racing, a business and labor coalition that unveiled its plans in Albany Thursday morning. 

The coalition of horse racing industry leaders in the state is pushing the state government during budget season to approve and back a $455  million bond issue to renovate Belmont Park in Elmont. 

Officials said the bond would not use taxpayer money and be paid back with racing revenue over 30 years.

The horse racing industry in New York generates $3 billion in annual economic activity while sustaining 19,000 jobs, according to the NYRA. 

Modernizing Belmont Park will only increase the tremendous benefits horse racing brings to everyone from farmers in the North Country to backstretch workers on Long Island to hotel workers in Saratoga,”  said Heather Briccetti Mulligan, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State. “We are excited to help the coalition continue to make the case this year in Albany.”

Officials added that improvements at the park could bring back the Breeders’ Cup to Long Island for the first time since 2005. The cup would be an additional marquee event on the horse racing calendar, which includes the Belmont Stakes, the third leg in the Triple Crown competition along with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in Maryland.

NYRA attempted to get similar financial support in the 2022 budget with a $450 million bond but was unsuccessful. Previous efforts included funding for a new grandstand and track improvements, among others. 

“A new Belmont Park will create thousands of jobs for New Yorkers and drive tourism downstate for decades,” said Jeff Cannizzo, senior director of government affairs for the NYRA. “No taxpayer funds will be used for this project and NYRA will be responsible for all debt.”

Renovations the park has seen since the summer months include the pony track, which was previously a dirt track, where synthetic turf will be installed in place of the original surface. Additionally, new fencing will be installed on the Plainfield Avenue border in Floral Park. 

The main track and turf training course has been closed since Aug. 7 and is expected to be completed in 2023 before the Belmont Stakes, according to the National Racing Association.

Vehicular and pedestrian tunnels will also be constructed, which Pat McKenna of the NYRA says will unlock the 45-acre infield at Belmont Park, provide more access to fans and allow NYRA to consider a synthetic track in the future. 

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