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Belmont bid details for hockey arena, soccer stadium emerge, but unknowns (bid, cost, tax revenues, public assistance) remain

It's big news on Long Island, at least, as the cover of yesterday's Newsday (right) suggests, but it should have ripples in Brooklyn, where the New York Islanders face an uneasy future (as I wrote) at the Barclays Center.

The two respondents (after one dropped out) to the Belmont Park RFP, a group including the Islanders and another including the New York City FC soccer team, made public presentations of their polished proposals on Sunday at a nearby high school.

The renderings looked good, and the numbers impressive. For example, as Newsday's Stefanie Dazio and Jim Baumbach reported:
The Islanders’ proposal includes an 18,000-seat, year-round arena that would host 150 events annually, as well as 435,000 square feet of space for retail, a hotel with 200 to 250 rooms, and a 10,000 square-foot “innovation center” that would be developed with input from residents.
NYCFC, a professional soccer team partially owned by the Yankees, is calling for a 26,000-seat open-air stadium in addition to 400,000 square-feet of space for retail, a 5.2-acre community park and a 2-acre soccer facility.
....The Islanders expect to bring more than 5,500 temporary construction jobs to the site with 2,000 full-time, permanent, year-round jobs. NYCFC said it would need 4,500 temporary construction jobs and have 1,600 direct and indirect jobs through retail and the soccer stadium.
Then again, as we learned during the Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center saga, the numbers don't necessarily hold up. After all, temporary construction jobs are typically counted in job-years, so a two-year construction timeline (with 5,500 jobs) means 2,750 jobs. 

Moreover, it's hard to imagine 2,000 "full-time" jobs that include some associated with an arena that hosts 150 events a year. Jobs at arenas are mostly part-time ones.

What's the bid? What public help is sought?

At least four important unknowns loom. One is the overall budget, and whether it's realistic. That connects to another unknown: what are the projections for public benefits, including new tax revenues?

Another is how much the two groups have bid for base rent.

Not that the money is the main criterion: it makes up just 20% of the weighting set by Empire State Development (ESD), the state economic development authority that oversees the land (and also Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park/Barclays Center, by the way.)

See p. 15 of the RFP, excerpted at right, which also weights, at 30%, both the project design/timing and the "extent to which proposed Projects strengthens Belmont as a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality on Long Island."

That's all fine, but it raises a question as to whether another arena would cannibalize from the county-owned Nassau Coliseum or the (nominally) state-owned Barclays Center.

Another unknown is how much public assistance, both direct and indirect, is being sought. As Newsday reported, "Both teams’ plans call for opening the Long Island Rail Road’s Belmont Park station year-round." Who's paying for that?

What next? And reasons for caution 

There's no timeline for a decision though it seems to be closer.

In a series of tweets, Newsday's Baumbach suggested the Isles' group, "including Sterling Project Development, a real estate firm run by the Mets’ Wilpon family, and Oak View Group, an arena development company partially funded by Madison Square Garden," was prepared to engage, while NYCFC was well-prepared, albeit with a Plan B, unlike the hockey group.

Newsday's Randi Marshall noted that both teams are well-connected politically.

To me though, a quote from Sterling's Richard Browne had some Atlantic Yards echoes. "We are very thoughtful developers and we don’t build and then move on,” he said.

Maybe, but MaryAnne Gilmartin, a key Forest City Ratner executive (and now CEO of Forest City New York), in February 2010 said "We don't build to flip." But circumstances changed and, not only did Forest City sell the rest of the arena to Mikhail Prokhorov, it sold 70% of the project (minus the arena and 461 Dean) to Greenland USA.

As another Forest City executive, now departed, once famously said, "Projects change, markets change."


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