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Ronkonkoma Arena Pitch Moving Forward

Suffolk County Arena rendering

Another arena pitch for Long Island is gathering momentum, as a proposed Ronkonkoma arena and larger development concept has cleared a key hurdle. 

Backed by Chicago real estate developer Jones Lang LaSalle and investment banker Ray Bartoszek, the bid calls for a new 17,500-seat arena to be constructed as part of a development on a 40-acre site between MacArthur Airport and the Ronkonkoma train station. The venue would be managed by Spectra, and anchor a mixed-use development that includes a 500-room hotel, along with amenities such as dining, retail, and offices. Also included in the plan are a sports medicine facility, and two community ice rinks.

While the proposed arena does not currently come attached with a commitment from a professional sports franchise or league, Bartoszek has previously sought to bring an NHL team to Seattle and is a minority owner in MLB’s New York Yankees. A Suffolk County committee selected the proposal for the site late last week, and it will now have to gain approval from the Suffolk legislature before it can move on to an environmental review process. More from Newsday:

According to the proposal, the Ronkonkoma site is “an ideal location for a multipurpose arena/entertainment center,” and the proposed arena “will enhance and complement the operations and marketability of other venues in the market while not conflicting with the catchment areas of the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden.”

John Cameron, managing partner of Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering, which is involved in the JLL-Bartoszek proposal, said last week the more than $1 billion effort would be privately financed by JLL and Bartoszek’s group.

“The JLL/Ronkonkoma Vision Project Team is excited to develop this important transformative project for the residents of the Town, the County and the Island,” the investment group said in a statement. Cameron said they were informed of the county’s decision Sunday evening.

At 17,500 seats, the proposed Ronkonkoma arena is not much smaller than the 19,000-seat arena that the NHL’s New York Islanders are planning for Belmont Park. The Belmont Park venue would add to an already packed slate of arenas in the New York City area, including a newly renovated Nassau Coliseum, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden, and the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. In the coming years, the Islanders are expected to split home games between the Coliseum and the Barclays Center while awaiting the opening of the Belmont Park arena, which is not expected to be complete until at least the 2021-22 NHL season.

The Islanders and the NHL are distancing themselves from the Ronkonkoma arena proposal. As reported by Newsday, the Islanders have no involvement in the plan while the NHL is not expected to be eager to add another team to the New York City region when the Islanders, New York Rangers, and New Jersey Devils are already entrenched in the area. A big trend in the arena world, however, calls for new facilities without a sports tenant: Kansas City’s Sprint Center has thrived without an NBA or NHL tenant, and the Fabulous Forum does business without sports, with a focus on live music

The proposed Ronkonkoma arena, which as noted does not include a commitment from a professional sports franchise, is the latest plan for a venue on Long Island. Bernard Shereck has pitched a 7,500-seat arena for the site of a former move theater in Medford, with his proposed venue designed to accommodate a team in the ECHL.

Rendering courtesy Crawford Architects.

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