Belmont Park redevelopment proceeds to demolition phase
Apr 4, 2024
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Belmont Park redevelopment proceeds to demolition phase

by Pat McKenna

On Friday, the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will embark on the initial stages of the demolition of the current Belmont Park grandstand and clubhouse. And while construction activity at Belmont has been constant over the last two years, the next phase of the overall project will mark a turning point for Belmont’s overall redevelopment.

Expected to require 4-6 months of work, the complicated project to bring down a 1.25 million square foot building will require a host of engineers and experts tasked with deliberately removing usable materials to honor the legacy of a building opened to the public in 1968. A total of 75 percent of the materials will be recycled including concrete, steel, copper and aluminum. NYRA will be processing this material on-site, which will significantly reduce truck traffic and emissions.

Over the last year, NYRA has preserved and stored Belmont’s extensive collection of racing artwork and murals that dotted the walls throughout the interior spaces at Belmont. In addition, NYRA has preserved and stored some of Belmont’s best-known artifacts such as the wrought-iron gates of the late, great Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx, which were donated to NYRA by August Belmont Jr.’s son, Perry Belmont, in 1937. The wrought-iron fencing from the clubhouse entrance and the paddock featuring the colors of each of the 13 Triple Crown winners have been safely removed and will be stored for future use.

“NYRA is the steward of this historic New York State property, and our goal as an organization is to create an open and accessible space that balances history while moving Belmont Park into the future,” said David O’Rourke, NYRA President and CEO. “The transformation of Belmont is incredibly important to the future of racing downstate, and NYRA will deliver a facility that existing fans and the next generation will be proud to have in New York.”

The Japanese White Pine that has elevated the paddock experience for generations of fans, and provides the inspiration for the current Belmont Park logo, will be surveyed and protected to the greatest extent possible throughout the demolition and construction phases. Additionally, John Skeaping’s bronze statue of Secretariat, also a central feature of the paddock, has been transported to Saratoga Race Course where it will be placed in a public area adjacent to the Walk of Fame through the duration of the project downstate.

In his role as Executive Vice President, Operations and Capital Projects, Glen Kozak has been deeply involved with every step of the projects over the last two years that have set the stage for the construction of a new building. Kozak has witnessed first-hand the careful work required to preserve history.

“The NYRA team has approached this process with great care from the very beginning,” said Kozak. “Belmont Park is a special place, and we are racing fans who have a deep respect for what this property means to the history of the sport. Sustainability is not just about being environmentally responsible by reducing emissions and waste. It also means that the new Belmont Park will quite literally contain materials that have been part of the site for decades.”

In August of 2023, NYRA transported the remains of Hall of Fame filly Ruffian from the Belmont Park infield to the grounds of Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, where the 1970s-era Champion was foaled and raised. Ruffian now rests at Claiborne’s Marchmont Cemetery, the final resting place of numerous legends of the sport.

Shortly thereafter, NYRA transported the remains of Timely Writer, winner of the 1981 Hopeful and Champagne, from the infield area at the top of the stretch at Belmont to Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky.

The new Belmont Park, which is being designed by the well-known architectural firm Populous in conjunction with NYRA, will be centered around a roughly 275,000 square foot building featuring the modern amenities and hospitality offerings sports fans now expect.

By reducing the building’s footprint from the previous 1.25 million square feet, and opening the infield for the first time, the new Belmont will dramatically increase the amount of unstructured green space available to fans and the surrounding community.

NYRA has developed a project plan that will allow for the Belmont Stakes to return to Belmont Park in June of 2026 prior to the full opening of the new building, which is scheduled for September of 2026.

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