Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Rail a question for new NYC hockey arena

Written by 
  • Print
  • Email
Rendering of the proposed Belmont Arena. The Long Island Rail Road platforms are at center bottom. Rendering of the proposed Belmont Arena. The Long Island Rail Road platforms are at center bottom. Sterling Project Development

An agreement to build an arena for the New York Islanders is good news for the hockey team and its fans, but what’s less certain is how rail service figures into the project.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and a host of project partners on Dec. 21 announced plans for the development of the 18,000-seat facility in the parking lot behind Belmont’s grandstand, including retail footage, a hotel and other business-related space.

The Islanders had been searching for a new stadium site after several seasons playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where they moved from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island. Sterling Equities (associated with the New York Mets), Madison Square Garden and Oak View Group are partnering on the $1 billion project, to be constructed on state land just outside the borough of Queens.

The Long Island Rail Road operates seasonal service to Belmont during the spring-summer meet from a one-stop line off the Hempstead Branch. But that would be a problematic journey for the team’s fan base living on Long Island. The Belmont stop can only be accessed by trains running east out of New York Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, or Jamaica, Queens, and spectators would first have to travel west and then make those connections. And, rail service would likely need to be expanded to accommodate not only hockey, but the 150 concerts and other events the developers envision for the arena each year. There are also unanswered questions about parking, with no outside lots pictured in the renderings of the arena, and issues over how to manage traffic of up to 6,000 cars for an event.

The source of funding for rail upgrades is unclear, since the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which operates the LIRR, is currently drawing on budget reserves to make emergency repairs to the New York City subway, and reportedly spending 17% of its budget to pay down debt.

Since it’s rare for private entities to pay for public transit works where stadiums are concerned, any plan for rail improvements could be uncertain if payment falls to taxpayers.

Get the latest rail news

Rail news and analysis from Railway Age, IRJ and RT&S by email