Nassau County gambles on Las Vegas Sands
Plans to redevelop more than 70 acres at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale took a huge step forward Wednesday after Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman revealed the county has come to terms on a lease agreement with Las Vegas Sands.
The agreement would give the Sands control over the land where it plans to spend $4 billion on a resort that would include hotels, community centers, a performance venue, convention spaces, restaurants and a casino.
“We are going to develop the Coliseum site with a world-class hotel, a world-class entertainment center, and that is going to be funded by a casino,” Blakeman told reporters at a news conference in Mineola. “We believe that that will bring jobs, economic prosperity, tax relief, and improved safety here in Nassau County.”
The agreement is still subject to the approval of the Nassau County Legislature, which likely won’t take it up until next month. But, if it’s passed, the county could potentially make millions in revenue. And local unions are happy about the jobs that the project could provide.
“This is something that is bold, and it's big,” Blakeman said. “But it's needed.”
But that doesn’t mean Sands will break ground right away. In fact, it won’t even be soon. This is just one of a number of steps for the Sands, Blakeman said. They still need to get the approval of the legislature, the zoning from the Town of Hempstead, and their gaming application from the state licensing board for the proposed casino.
“This will be an economic driver for this county,” Blakeman said. “Creating jobs, providing revenue to the county, providing revenue to the Town of Hempstead, providing revenue to all of our community groups that surround the Coliseum site — and those are the things that are important to the people in Nassau County.”
Immediately following approval from the county legislature, the Sands will start paying an annual rent of $5 million until they get their gaming license. Then rent doubles to $10 million.
Within 60 days of approval, the Sands will give the county an additional $54 million. Once the casino has opened, the county will be guaranteed $25 million in additional revenue each year, according to Blakeman. And that’s only for the first three years, officials said.
Local communities stand to benefit from the agreement as well, Blakeman said. The Town of Hempstead would be paid a “significant” sum with $4 million earmarked for East Meadow, Uniondale, and the villages of Hempstead and Garden City through a community benefits program. The county will also receive $1.8 million per year for police improvements in the area surrounding the site.
“We felt this was the best location to do what we do, which is build large-scale resorts,” Sands president Rob Goldstein said. “We don't build casinos. We build resorts with the casinos inside of them.”
It’s up the Sands what would ultimately happen to the Coliseum, and Goldstein said that a decision hasn’t been made yet concerning the venue.
“The goal of our company is to integrate ourselves in your community,” he said. “It will unequivocally involve local restaurant tours.”
The Sands has been trying to get to know the community since the start, and held a procurement academy with the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce on April 20.
“They started off right,” said Frank Camarano Jr., president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce at the procurement academy. “They understood. They didn’t have to wait for the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce to say, ‘Hey guys, you have to start at the grassroots level.’ It was the exact opposite — they reached out to us.”
Long Island businesses came out to see how they could be a part of the new project. Frank Borrelli, owner of Borrelli’s Italian Restaurant in East Meadow, believes this project is the best option presented so far.
“I think it’s a home run for the community,” he said. “The taxes it’s going to generate for the county will be insane, not only from (the resort), but just branching off and bringing people to the areas. And tourism in general.”
There are still those opposed to the project, though, and protestors stood outside the legislature building, and said they weren’t allowed inside.
“There is no excuse why the unions can't build something other than the casino,” Deirde Benoit, an East Meadow resident and retired union member said. “Three years from now, they build and they hang up their tool belts and walk away. We’re left with an abomination of that building, and the impact that's going to have on our neighborhood.”
There is a contingency plan pending the gaming license from the state. Officials said that the project could take four years from start to finish once approval is received.
CORRECTION: The lease agreement is one of a number of steps Las Vegas Sands will have to complete to secure the redevelopment project. An earlier version of this story mischaracterized which step this was.