Officials eye Coliseum-Belmont scenario

An aerial view of Belmont Racetrack. An aerial view of Belmont Racetrack. Photo Credit: Google Earth

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Nassau County officials are considering a scenario in which a new Nassau Coliseum could be built at Belmont Park, a move that could pair a racetrack, hockey arena and casino into a sports-entertainment center.

"This is an option and all options are on the table," said Brian Nevin, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano.

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Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz raised the possibility Tuesday during a meeting of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, of which he is vice chairman along with Long Island Association head Kevin Law.

Moving the arena to Belmont would free up the 77 acres of Coliseum land for a potential research and development park, or a mix of other uses, Rabinowitz said.

Any move to the Elmont site would likely require state approval, because it is on state land, he added.

"The concept of a sports arena at Belmont has been around for some time," said State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), whose district includes the Belmont site. "It lends itself to it."

Hempstead Town Board member Ed Ambrosino first raised the idea with Mangano over the summer -- and more serious discussions began after a referendum seeking to borrow public funds for a new arena failed, Ambrosino said.

Ambrosino said he has spoken with a "multinational" company interested in locating its research and development facilities on the Coliseum land. It would, he added, mesh well with Hofstra and the other academic facilities in the area.

Meanwhile, Belmont could then include the raceway, Coliseum and a casino proposed by the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

"You're talking about a massive entertainment destination," Ambrosino said.

A person close to the Shinnecock Indian Nation, who said he had not known about the idea, said the tribe would support the Coliseum within the Belmont Park location, where tribal leaders have been working for months to shore up support after abandoning an earlier plan to locate a casino at the Nassau Hub.

"We liked the idea of the Coliseum site because of the synergy it would create as an entertainment destination," said the person. "Throw in a world-class horse racing track and you really have a home run."

The New York Islanders have said they will not play at the Coliseum after their lease expires in 2015. Islanders senior vice president Michael Picker did not return calls for comment.

Mangano remains interested in finding a plan that could leave the Coliseum at the current site if a parking facility could be built, Rabinowitz said. At Belmont, officials said the existing parking could be shared with the raceway -- and would likely be sufficient.

Speaking at the council meeting Tuesday, Rabinowitz said Nassau County has not yet submitted a project to the group, but plans to by the Oct. 14 deadline.

Mangano said last week that he was planning to seek state funding for the Coliseum site, adding that a request for proposals for the land would emerge later.

With Mark Harrington

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