Suffolk County is moving to determine whether it needs a major new exposition center that could handle large conventions, horse shows, and sporting and auto events that could spur the county economy.
A resolution directing the county to solicit consultants for expressions of interest was approved by the county legislature last week. Aides said County Executive Steve Bellone would sign the measure, co-sponsored by Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) and Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), by week's end.
"This is a first step," said Justin Meyers, a Bellone spokesman. "This gives us an opportunity to look into the concept. . . . This idea has potential."
Schneiderman said the project would be a "major boost" to the local economy, helping to create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in new revenue.
"This kind of facility will bring in money from Nassau, Westchester and New York City, not redistribute money already here," he said. "This brings in new money and that brings economic development."
Suffolk County Community College has a 100,000-square-foot indoor expo center at its Brentwood campus. But Schneiderman said the county needs a larger venue of 150,000 to 200,000 square feet to accommodate horse shows, motocross, monster trucks and other large events.
Yan Baczkowski, president of the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission, said Suffolk "has lost a significant amount of business" because its facilities are not large enough.
"In our small universe, we bring in $30 million in business every year now," Baczkowski said of the convention and visitors bureau. "Imagine what we could do if we had a convention center. There are huge possibilities for economic impact."
Schneiderman said he envisions locations with easy access to the Long Island Expressway and Long Island Rail Road, that are located more to the east to avoid competition with the Brentwood center.
He said the Department of Economic Development would solicit expressions of interest from consultants to provide specific proposals to assess the need for such a complex, propose potential sites, estimate the cost and the possibility of private funding or grants, as well as determine the economic benefits and sales taxes the project would generate.
While the legislative resolution directs the county to seek proposals, the measure does not provide money to fund a study.
Schneiderman said there may be state funds available to determine the need for an exposition center.
The need for such a site first was identified in a report done in 2010 by a county equestrian task force, which said the county needed an indoor complex to host major horse events.
Calarco said the task force, which he chaired, put the local horse population between 6,600 and 15,000 horses. The panel noted that the Hampton Classic Horse Show alone draws more than 1,600 horses and 50,000 spectators and generates more than $13.56 million in local economic activity.
Officials said the county has not constructed a large-scale sporting facility since 2000, when it built the $20 million baseball park that houses the Long Island Ducks in Central Islip.