Monday, January 19, 2009

Aqueduct Plans Will Create Thousands of Jobs by Nicole Turso - The Queens Courier

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Plans to revitalize Aqueduct Race Track are in the home stretch, and could possibly have the South Ozone Park entertainment destination opening its doors in mid-2010, said Delaware North representatives.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer at the most recent meeting of Community Board 10, on Thursday, January 8. “I’m very excited.”

After nearly eight years of delays, Buffalo-based development company Delaware North, in conjunction with the New York State legislature, finalized a contract to construct a 328,000-square-foot entertainment complex on the grounds of Aqueduct Race Track.

Representative Ron Sultemeier from Delaware North, and consultant Dan Gerrity of Saratoga Harness Racing, mapped out their plans for the $370 million racetrack project in a presentation, complete with animated renderings, at Thursday’s meeting - the first presentation given to Community Board 10 members.

“We have a commitment to have a strong community involvement,” said Sultemeier. “I know there’s been talk of, ‘Gee, you guys haven’t been here a lot.’ It was a tough process.”

The hybrid racetrack-casino - or racino - will feature a 185,000-square-foot-gaming floor, complete with 4,500 video lottery terminals.

Sultemeier also cited 7,600 parking spaces, including a 2,000-space parking garage, world-class restaurants and food amenities, including a 600-seat buffet, an Italian restaurant and a noodle bar, all ready for opening day.

Delaware North estimates the project will create 1,100 construction jobs and nearly 1,000 permanent jobs in the facility, many of which will be local hires.

“The job fairs are going to be local. They aren’t going to be in Albany, or Atlantic City - they’re going to be in Queens,” said Sultemeier. “We know how important that is to you.”

The first phase of the project is expected to cost $250 million at the start of construction. Another $170 million dollars will be dedicated to maintaining the facility through Delaware North’s 30-year contract with the state.

Delaware North representatives also have plans to construct a 300-room resort hotel and spa, a retail mall, a 3,000-seat events center, and a 60,000-square-foot conference facility in the latter phases of the project.

But there might just be a spoiler in this race.

Delaware North is also in the running to transform Belmont Race Track in Nassau County into a racino, as part of Governor David Paterson’s plan to raise revenue in the state.

Pheffer said the contract negotiated with Delaware North was clear.

“The assembly was very adamant about not having [Belmont] equally at the time that we were going to open Aqueduct. We still expect that,” said Pheffer. “We want Aqueduct up, running and successful before you start looking for video lottery or slot machines at Belmont.”

Delaware North beat out two other bidders for the contract at Aqueduct - SL Green Realty in partnership with Hard Rock Entertainment, and Capital Play, which joined with popular casino-hotel company, Mohegan Sun.

The company expects to complete the project in 14 months after a groundbreaking date is established.