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Islanders plan to submit bid for arena at Belmont Park, NHL’s Gary Bettman says

The aerial view over Belmont Park in Elmont

The aerial view over Belmont Park in Elmont on May 30, 2015.  Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

The Islanders plan to submit a bid to the state to build a new hockey arena at Belmont Park, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday, marking the first public confirmation of the team’s stadium strategy.

Saying that the Islanders “are reviewing their options,” Bettman also mentioned the land next to Citi Field in Willets Point as a potential landing spot for the Islanders and added that the renovated Nassau Coliseum is “not a long-term option.”

“Yes, there is an RFP [request for proposal] for Belmont and I know they are going to participate in that,” Bettman said of the Islanders. “I believe that everyone thinks there is a terrific opportunity there, if not at Willets Point, to create a more hockey friendly environment for the Islanders, which is something [Islanders co-owner] Scott [Malkin] is committed to do.”

Bettman made his comments about the Islanders’ arena plans on Friday to a group from The Associated Press Sports Editors at the league’s midtown Manhattan office.

Both the Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum, declined to comment.

Sources have said the Islanders have been talking with the owners of the Mets about teaming up on the development. The Islanders are being advised by the Oak View Group, a sports arena development company backed by Madison Square Garden.

A spokeswoman for Empire State Development said last week that the state’s primary business development agency is “working to finalize” a request for proposals to develop Belmont Park. Last year the agency scrapped proposals, including a 25,000-seat soccer stadium for the New York Cosmos, after a long-delayed, four-year process.

Bettman’s comments come as the Islanders and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center near a deadline to open a renegotiation period of their license agreement that must occur before either side can opt out of the 25-year deal in January.

The operators of Barclays Center plan to pitch the Islanders on a return to their former home, according to Kevin Law, the president and chief executive of Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group.

But Bettman said Friday he doesn’t see the Coliseum as a possibility for the Islanders. “I don’t know if it’s a short-term option,” he said, “but I know it’s not a long-term option.”

A spokesman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who has lobbied the Islanders to return to the renovated Nassau Coliseum, said he had no comment on Bettman’s remarks.

Lawmakers and area civic leaders are split on the prospects of an Elmont arena.

State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Manhasset), whose district includes Floral Park and parts of Elmont, said “the community has waited a long time for economic development at Belmont. Any redevelopment needs to be done with extensive input from residents, before anything is considered.”

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who also represents parts of Elmont, said it’s “too early to prejudge” the project.

“If there’s a path to bring the Islanders home while increasing jobs for the community and adding other benefits, such as a full-time LIRR station, then such a proposal would merit serious consideration,” Kaminsky said.

Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino called on the governor’s office and the MTA to add full service commuter trains to the Belmont LIRR station Friday, in response to plans for developments and requests for proposals surrounding Belmont Park.

Santino said he wants to see the Islanders come back to Hempstead and thinks the station would help Islanders fans.

“If it comes to fruition, a commuter rail link for the Islanders would be a major plus,” Santino said.

— With John Asbury

New York Sports