Friday, November 04, 2011

Detroiter Malik Says He's Been Planning Belmont Race Track Casino for 6+ Years; But He Has Yet to Meet with NYRA Officials


By Rich Forestano 
Renderings of casino displayed for local businesses

Belmont Racetrack has played host to events as large as third-leg of the Triple Crown and as small, but still of importance, as 5K charity walk/runs. If a Detroit-based hotel/casino resort development company has its way, the corridor of Elmont and a “gateway” to the rest of Long Island, will go through a considerable change.

left to right: Michael McKeon, Lance Boldrey,
John Waihee, Michael Malik
Developer Michael Malik presented renderings of a preliminary plan to the Elmont Chamber of Commerce last Thursday, Oct. 20. Malik’s colleagues Michael McKeon, Lance Boldrey and former Hawaii Governor John Waihee accompanied him.

Malik, a partner to the Shinnecock Indian Nation and financial backer for the tribe’s casino proposal, said the development has been attempting to find its stride for several months, but began to gain momentum when Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano announced his Economic Development and Job Creation Plan in May. Malik has been at the forefront of heading event control for the World Series, the NCAA Final Four, among others. [REALLY Mike Malik? Maybe some of the people you share office space with at Ilitch headquarters  have been involved at some level but you... He'll say anything!]

Malik revealed that he and his team have been targeting the Belmont’s development for six or seven years. Furthermore, the location is a prime spot for gaming development, according to Malik.

Malik designed the first development renderings in approximately 2005. They have since changed, dramatically.

The renderings were not permitted to be photographed, which showcased a casino building with a Victorian-style red brick facade, ground-to-ceiling paneled windows and a copper-patina roof, located on the southwest side of Belmont near the Cross Island Parkway, to give customers easier access and a new Belmont Park structure with the same design.

A grand entrance with fountains and galleries showcasing the history of Belmont is also in discussion. A circled driveway would take customers to and from the casino with malls of grass.

“Nothing has been set in stone; however, it has modernized features with a historic feel,” Malik said. “We would think to put the casino off the freeway itself, so that people can come on and off. We also added in a parking deck area on the opposite side of the street.”

The drawings also included an irrigation system on the south side of the park, beyond the main track, near the border of the Village of Floral Park, which has been prone to flooding. He stressed that these drawings “are not final.”

“The irrigation system would help to resolve that flooding problem, as well as help keep the track and surrounding green dry,” Malik explained.

Malik detailed an idea to take the flood waters that have plagued Floral Park and filter them into the infield in the middle of the track to provide a “welcomed aesthetic” to the infield, while addressing the flooding issues for the village to the north.

Other ideas portrayed in the renderings were a recreational area and private parking lot on the southern end of the park; an indoor train station next to the park; and a central area for parading horses before and after meets, and showing off winning horses. The alley that horses currently take into the park is hidden, beneath the bleachers, and the winner’s circle is closer to track level, away from spectators’ view.

Malik said the horse parades would be one of the many crucial pieces to the fan/family experience.

“We want the world to focus on Belmont,” he said. “We want people who are watching the Belmont Stakes on television to want to come.”

Malik detailed a new seating area in the center of the infield. He said the height of the building could be between 12 and 15 stories.

When Elmont Chamber President Chris Rosado asked Malik whether he thought the casino development might harm nearby businesses, Malik said that, although he couldn’t definitively say for sure, he believes a casino would boost business since the casino is expected to create at least 5,000 jobs.

Malik said he hopes to sit down with the New York Racing Association (NYRA) and discuss its proposal soon. Concerning negotiations, Malik would not divulge how long it would take.

“We want to get this done as soon as possible,” he said. “Hopefully within the next year we hope to be through our approvals. That’s kind of the guideline we’re in.

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