Judging from its own statistics and attendance numbers, the North American Soccer League offers irrefutable proof that there is no plausible business model that could make a $400 million super soccer stadium at Belmont Park even remotely profitable for those who own the property, namely, the taxpayers.
Unless there are stealth elements to this plan yet to be revealed, this is a league seeking to sell the state, the region and the surrounding Elmont community a season ticket to an economic fantasyland.
The developers are proposing a stadium that would hold 25,000 seats when the league’s best-drawing team, San Antonio, averaged just 9,176 spectators during a recent season.
A more realistic appreciation of the league’s potential to draw a crowd is its total average attendance of 4,803 reported during the current season. Just who is expected to fill the other seats, create jobs and produce sufficient revenue to keep the lights on?
The league’s local franchise, the New York Cosmos, has imposed a full court press on the local Elmont community to accept the plan, even though civic leaders and Nassau County officials would like Belmont redeveloped as a community friendly complex of local retail, residential, neighborhood parks and recreational opportunities.
Among their greatest concerns is that the mega stadium offers no economic rate of return for a proud minority community emerging as a robust middle-class neighborhood.
And keep in mind that a Belmont Park stadium would have to compete with a renovated – or brand new – Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, plus the real possibility of a competing soccer stadium in Queens.
It is not simple irony that the construction of a mega stadium in soccer-crazed Brazil has become the lightning rod for angry protests over failed economic policies and diverted resources.
The people of Elmont, like Brazil, are understandably wary of a soccer project when what they need are jobs, smart economic growth and appropriate development that enhance their quality of life.
Polimeni is principal of Polimeni International and an executive board member of the Association for a Better Long Island.