New York Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover drew an enthusiastic response from local residents on the pro soccer team’s proposal for a new $400 million soccer stadium and other amenities at Belmont Race Track during a community forum on Thursday, May 7.
More than 200 residents from Sewanhaka’s component elementary school districts attended the hour-long meeting in the Sewanhaka High School auditorium, sometimes interrupting Stover’s response to audience questions with applause.
Stover drew the loudest reaction when he said the privately-funded project would meet with communities in the area to offer its assistance in different ways. “Part of our bid is $2 million to come into the community and refurbish [playing] fields,” Stover said in response to a question about the project’s impact on Floral Park.
The question-and-answer session was preceded by a brief video that featured a virtual tour of the proposed stadium, which showed a large ramp leading into a promenade that would encircle the stadium above the seats.
Stover said the Comos’ proposal is one of four projects submitted in response to a request for proposals on development of the Belmont grounds from the Empire State Development Corp. in 2013.
Michael Mattone, executive vice president and CFO of the Queens-based Mattone Group, which would develop nine new restaurants, retail space, a 175-room hotel and a 4.3-acre public park around the 25,000 seat stadium, accompanied Stover to give his company’s perspective on the project.
“We want no special treatment. We want to bring a business here and provide jobs in the area,” Mattone said.
Stover said the project, dubbed Elmont Crossings, would bring a range of employment opportunities among the 3,000 permanent jobs it would bring , including entry level and management positions. Team officials have previously said the project would also create 500 construction jobs.
Laura Ferone, president of the Floral Park School Board, and Michael Jaime, president of the Elmont School Board, read questions submitted by audience members. Many of those attending the meeting wore T-shirts emblazoned with #WeWantIt and #MoreThanAStadium.
Stover, former managing director of the New York Red Bulls soccer team, said the Cosmos were hoping to rekindle the team’s success as part of the original North American Soccer League, which included the presence of Brazilian legend Pele on the team. That league folded after a 15-year run from 1970 to 1985.
“If we build the stadium, we will have a better team, similar to the Cosmos in the late ‘70s,” Stover said. “We’re looking to build a new league and a team that will compete on a global scale.”
He said the stadium would host 40 major events annually, including the Cosmos games and exhibition matches between international soccer squads and European club teams.
“There’s a lot of things we can do here. We will certainly keep the building busy,” Stover said.
Asked about ticket prices, Stover said the team’s current ticket prices are $20 at its current venue in Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University and said the team would follow “a similar model” in its new stadium.
Stover said the team is also looking at other sites as it awaits a decision from the Empire State Development Corp. that was expected last year.
“It has dragged on. We’re a little frustrated,” he said. “Our number one focus is this project, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we weren’t considering other sites.”
He noted that the Cosmos project has drawn bi-partisan political support from Republicans and Democrats in Queens and Nassau County.
State Sen. Jack Martins, whose district includes Belmont Park, has called the proposal “an exciting project—a real game-changer for the community, the county and the state. It will create thousands of short- and long-term jobs and economic opportunity where we need it most.”
Floral Park Dispatch readers are invited to email letters to the editor about the proposed stadium, 200 words or less, with their name, address and home phone. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.