The pounding of construction machinery, not horses galloping, was the predominant sound entering the Belmont Park grounds on Wednesday.
One week after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the green light to Phase 1 re-opening on Long Island, construction continues on the Islanders’ new arena, which stretches from within approximately 80 yards of the racetrack’s giant grandstand to Hempstead Turnpike.
The exterior’s shape has been completed, though it is all still girder work and some sections are more built up than others. So, there clearly remains plenty more outside work to do before construction can shift to the interior of the arena.
Neither the Islanders nor Empire State Development provided any updates on the construction’s progress on Wednesday. It is unclear what percentage of the workforce was on the site as compared to before construction was halted on March 27 because of the COVID-19 pandemic but the construction site did not appear to be crowded with workers.
Still, Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman both said last week their belief was the project would not be delayed from its target date of October, 2021 despite the two-minute construction halt.
The building will seat 17,113 for hockey and is the focal point of a $1.3 billion project that also includes a 250-room hotel and 350,000 square feet of retail.
The arena is being built on former premier parking lots for the racetrack. But NYRA is conducting its delayed, 25-day spring/summer meet at Belmont, which opened on Wednesday, without fans on the grounds.
So, parking will not be an issue for the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 20.
Presumably, though, fans will be back by June, 2021 for the 153rd running. By then, the arena may be nearing its completion.
“The progress they were making was amazing,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said on Tuesday of the work done through the mild winter before construction halt.