Saturday, May 15, 2010

State Set to Begin Fourth Aqueduct Bidding Process by Stephen Geffon - Leader Observer

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The long-delayed Aqueduct casino project may finally be reaching the finish line.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer told members of Community Board 10 at their meeting last week that Governor David Paterson will shortly release a Request for Bids for the racino. This will be the fourth bidding process since Aqueduct was approved for video lottery terminals in 2001.

“There is going to be a very streamlined (bidding) process,” said Pheffer.

In the last round of bidding, Aqueduct Entertainment Group was initially selected and then rejected a month later after serious concerns were raised about the selection process. The selection of AEG is the subject of investigations by federal prosecutors and the state inspector general’s office.

Under the new plan, a specific set of criteria will be used to provide an “apples to apples” set of benchmarks that will permit the Division of the Lottery to apply a ranking system to the bids.

Bidders will now be rated on a point system. The total will be 100 points. Ten points will be given to the bidder who offers the highest upfront franchise fee, with a minimum of $300 million. Ninety points will be given to the bidder deemed to have the most experience in the gambling industry. The bidder scoring the highest will be recommended to the leaders of the Assembly and the Senate.

“The bottom line is that the governor is committed to putting out the RFP and stepping back,” said Pheffer. She added that the Division of the Lottery and Division of the Budget will analyze the bidders and their bids and make a recommendation.

The bidders will also be required to use a footprint for the casino that is based largely on previously approved plans for the site.

Pheffer said she believed that it would be the same bidders as the last time due to the 30 to 45-day time frame to submit bids from the date the RFP is put out. However, new bidders will be permitted to enter the competition.

The bidders left in the previous process were SL Green/Hard Rock Entertainment, Penn National Gaming, and Delaware North. Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn, who dropped out of the bidding last time, could also join the bidders.

Pheffer said that at this point she wants to be sure that all the bidders know what is important to the community: security at and around the site and jobs for people who live in the Community Board 10 area.

Also on the board’s agenda was a presentation by the Department of Parks and Recreation of the Tudor Park ballfield renovation project.

Michael Bolger, landscape architect for the Parks Department, said the $1 million reconstruction of the ballfield, which is used for baseball, softball, and cricket, will take approximately six months. Bolger said the agency expect to have a bidder for the project selected by the end of the year, with construction to start in late winter of 2011 and be completed by the end of the summer.

The project will include a clay storage box, new three-row spectator bleachers, dugouts, benches, buffer trees and shrubs, drinking fountain, and fencing. Drainage issues at the site will be addressed, and the ballfield will also get new sod.

The Tudor Park ballfield is located in Ozone Park between North Conduit Avenue, 133rd Avenue, 81st Street, and 80th Street.