The start date of construction on a new hockey arena on the grounds of Belmont Park could be pushed back slightly to the point that the racing and training schedules for the Belmont spring/summer meet may not be impacted at all.
While the Empire State Development Corp. on Friday said it remains on schedule to deliver a final Environmental Impact Study regarding the project during the second quarter of this year, there’s a chance that study may not be released until late in the second quarter, potentially pushing ground-breaking until after the Belmont spring/summer meet has concluded on July 7.
Previous published reports had ground-breaking occurring in May, and NYRA officials had anticipated a start date of June 10, two days after the Belmont Stakes.
On Thursday, ESDC, which in December 2017 awarded the arena project to a group that includes the NHL’s New York Islanders, extended the contract of AKRF, an environmental planning and engineering firm, by one year and approved $1.2 million in funding to cover additional costs involved with the environmental study. In January, ESDC held four public hearings in Belmont and has received approximately 2,000 comments from the public about the project, which also includes a hotel and large retail center across the street from the track. The comment period was extended through March 1.
Rachel Shatz, ESDC’s vice president of planning and environmental review said at a company board meeting Thursday that the arena project “probably could set a record for the number of comments that we’ve received,” according a transcript of the meeting provided by ESDC.
Later in the meeting, Shatz said “hopefully by the end of second quarter of this year, we’ll be able to issue the final EIS.”
Earlier this month, in anticipation of construction starting in June at Belmont, the New York Racing Association announced it would end the Belmont meet on July 7 and begin the Saratoga meet a week earlier, on July 11.
Further, NYRA officials had discussed that once construction on the arena begins, training hours on the main track would have to be curtailed and first post on weekday racing days could be pushed back by as much as two hours to 3:30 or slightly later.
A NYRA spokesperson said that any decisions regarding the impact the arena project may have on training or racing during the Belmont meet will be made “following the conclusion of the public approval process.”
Part of the arena will take up space in the backyard of Belmont Park.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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