Op-ed | Modernizing Belmont Park is a good bet for the New York economy

Belmont Park
Tiz the Law won the 2020 Belmont Stakes at a virtually empty Belmont Park, as fans were kept away amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

Horse racing is a powerful engine for the New York economy that supports families and communities in every corner of the state. Our racetracks employ union electricians and carpenters, trainers and grooms, security guards, maintenance staff, and many others working every day to care for horses and keep these facilities running.  

Beyond the gates of Belmont Park or Saratoga Race Course, horse racing stands at the center of an ecosystem that includes thousands of small businesses — like hotels in Saratoga Springs and restaurants on Long Island — and hundreds of family-owned farms which rely on the sport’s long-term success to thrive.  

And if we want these thousands of New Yorkers to continue to succeed, we cannot stand still. Fortunately, our leaders in Albany have the opportunity to secure the future of thoroughbred racing in New York by modernizing Belmont Park on Long Island.  

Home of the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, Belmont Park lacks the amenities and hospitality options sports fans now expect from major venues. The facility has become so outdated that mega-events like the Breeders’ Cup World Championships have chosen to bypass New York. Instead, the Breeders’ Cup has been held in competing states like California or Kentucky. As a result, New York continues to miss out on an event that could generate as much as $100 million in economic impact each time it is held in New York.  

Modernizing Belmont Park would build the world-class sports and entertainment destination New Yorkers deserve, while creating thousands of jobs, generating billions in economic impact, and ensuring the sport of horse racing continues to create jobs and support communities. That’s why this transformational project enjoys broad support among New Yorkers, elected officials, organized labor and the statewide business community. 

In January, the effort to build a new Belmont Park took a major step forward when the Governor’s Executive Budget Proposal included a $455 million loan to finance construction of a new Belmont Park. Importantly, the loan will be paid back in full — with interest — using funds that are guaranteed under the state’s horse racing franchise.  

That means no taxpayer dollars will be used to upgrade Belmont. 

As the budget process continues to unfold in Albany, we ask members of the state legislature to support a project that will sustain countless New York families both now and in the years to come.  

The time is right to build a new Belmont Park for the benefit of New York State. 

David O’Rourke is the president and CEO of the New York Racing Association (NYRA), which operates Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.