More than a hundred supporters of the construction of a proposed soccer stadium by the New York Cosmos organization rallied on May 3, outside of its anticipated location—a currently empty parking field situated in Belmont Park in Elmont—to express their backing of an endeavor that many of them feel will revitalize the community.
The Cosmos project is one of four bids for the Belmont Park property that were submitted to the Empire State Development Corporation in February 2013, and so far none have yet been approved. However, New York Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover, who attended the Elmont rally, said that Belmont Park was the ideal location for his proposed stadium and the best option for the community overall.
“Soccer is the global game and representative of diversity all over the world and Elmont is one of the most diverse areas in all of the United States,” he said. “There are people here from all over the world who love soccer, so we believe that a stadium here will work for us. But it’s also an area that needs economic investment.”
Sandra Smith, the chairperson for the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development, was responsible for setting up the rally on the lawn outside the empty parking lot on the Belmont Raceway property. She said that she did so to help bring attention to a matter that so far has only received negative mainstream attention from politicians such as Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages, who recently held a rally of his own outside of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s regional office in Hicksville.
“For the past three years we’ve been trying to do things the politically correct way, give the governor’s office a fair shot to review the plans,” Smith said. “But in light of that not happening, I felt it was necessary to bring residents out here to let the governor know that there’s a huge amount of people in Elmont and the surrounding communities that support this project.”
Among the development plans for the property, Stover said, are a 25,000-seat soccer stadium, nine restaurants, a 175-room hotel, and 300,000 square feet of retail including a grocery store and movie theater, as well as various entertainment-related businesses, a public park, and investment into the local community services.
“If the state approves our bid, we would need to do studies, hire contractors and begin construction,” he said. “It would probably be six to 12 months for that and another two years for construction before everything is complete.”
Among the reasons cited by Smith for the groundswell of support locals is expressing for the stadium project are the fact that the Cosmos organization would be funding it entirely themselves—no taxpayer dollars would be used. Also, she noted, the Cosmos have said that they would be willing to start paying taxes immediately upon opening their doors to the public, without the benefit of any tax breaks.
“The governor’s main point has been to encourage businesses to come to New York. Well, here’s a project that’s been in the office for three years and they’re not looking for anything from the state or the taxpayers,” she said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer. Soccer is becoming a very popular sport in America—and has been so in Europe for ages—so why can’t we be on the cutting edge and have a stadium where the world would want to come and see a game?”
In addition, Smith said, the project stands to create 500 jobs and $300 million in economic activity to Nassau County.
Cesar Trelles of New Hyde Park is a member of the Cross Island Cosmos Supporters, a die-hard fan club that has tasked themselves with going out and getting signatures from the community and rally support for the stadium.
“We have a petition here that’s going to Empire State Development Corporation and Governor Cuomo, telling them that the Cosmos plan is the best, most economically feasible plan that’s been proposed, and it’s been three years and we think they should hurry up and approve it,” he said. “Today, we’ve gotten a few hundred signatures, and there were a lot of community folks here today at this rally who think this stadium is a great idea…it just makes sense. Economically, for the community, it’s going to put it on the map.”