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$8B Metropolitan Park Project Just Needs a Gaming License

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$8B Metropolitan Park Project Just Needs a Gaming License

The Atlanta Braves (The Battery Atlanta), St. Louis Cardinals (Ballpark Village), Texas Rangers (Texas Live!), and Milwaukee Bucks (Deer District) have all built mixed-use real estate districts around their stadium or arena in recent years. Monumental Sports & Entertainment recently announced plans to do the same in Alexandria, VA. 

Despite the trend, and a handful of new stadiums/arenas sprouting up across the tri-state area over the last 15 years, New York remains without integrated sports and entertainment development (think: bars, restaurants, shopping). A day at the ballpark in NYC is often just a few hours before turning around to go home.

That will change though for Mets games at Citi Field if the Metropolitan Park project comes to fruition. Club owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International have a plan to transform 50 acres of asphalt around the baseball stadium into a world-class entertainment destination.

But the effort is contingent upon the group being awarded one of New York’s three downstate gaming licenses. A brick-and-mortar casino would be an economic engine for Met Park and serve as the main catalyst for consistent visitor traffic. 

The project is not seen as viable without it.


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New York Magazine wrote an article in 2019 entitled ‘Why New York Can’t Have Nice Things’ that explained why large scale construction projects rarely get done in NYC. A dearth of vacant land, the prohibitive costs –even compared to heavily unionized cities like London and Paris– and legislative and political landscape were all cited as (or are known to be) headwinds.

The Wilpon family found that out when it tried to build a shopping mall on the vacant land in Queens. The former Mets owners were unable to get the requisite changes made to land-use legislation.

The reality described by New York Magazine largely remains true today. But with a new Governor, a new Mayor, legalized sports betting in the state (which was not the case in ‘19), and a new team owner, optimism exists that this project will become reality.

It wouldn’t be possible to build a sports and entertainment district around some of the other venues in NYC (think: MSG, Barclays Center, Yankee Stadium). But Citi Field resides at a unique location within the city. It is surrounded by dozens of acres of undeveloped asphalt, and sits at the intersection of three major highways. 

Robust public transportation infrastructure exists for it too. The 7 train and Long Island Railroad already run by the site, there is a dock for high-speed ferry service to and from events, and it is just minutes from LaGuardia Airport.

It would be logical to surmise that the Metropolitan Park project is Cohen’s response to an uncertain local media rights landscape. That is not the case. Remember, the Wilpons kept SNY (and the club’s local TV revenues) when selling the team. 

The Met Park project was initiated in 2021 after Mets fans and local community members expressed to Cohen their desire for an enhanced game day experience. The lifelong fan immediately began looking into what it would take to rejuvenate the industrial wasteland around the venue, and started a process to gather input on the kinds of additions they would value.

Cohen & Co. have had more than 22,000 interactions to date. 

“People want ball fields [and] courts. They want an indoor live music venue so that we can have concerts year-round. They want bike paths and accessible walking trails, a ‘Taste of Queens’ food hall, and conference and meeting space,” Michael Sullivan (chief of staff, Point72) said.

The project’s plans also include a large hotel so that visiting teams and their fans can stay and spend money in Queens.

“The feedback we hear from the community is we have all of these sports, people come from all over the world to [attend Mets games or the U.S. Open, and nothing exists to tie it all together],” Sullivan said. “They fly into LaGuardia, take a black car to Manhattan, spend money in Manhattan, take a black car [to the event], create a bunch of traffic, and go home. It’s time to put Queens first.” 

Efforts to transform the area are estimated to cost $8 billion. The entire project will be privately financed.

While gaming will comprise less than 10% of the development’s overall square footage, Met Park is not viable without a casino. It’s an economic engine, and more importantly, viewed as the attraction that will keep people coming to Queens year-round.

So, there will not be a ground-breaking unless/until the group receives a downstate gaming license.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the area–one we can’t afford to miss,” Sullivan said.

The New York Gaming Commission is currently in the process of responding to a second round of questions regarding the RFA process. Once done, applicants will have 30 days to submit their applications. 

During that period all the applicants will work to get the necessary entitlements for their respective projects done (think: required architectural, engineering, and environmental permits). Cohen’s group will also engage lawmakers in Albany in hopes of passing a bill that adds to the permitted uses of the vacant land around City Field, and try to convince at least four of six Community Advisory Council members to vote in favor of its project. 

The timeline for the CAC’s decision is unclear.

The New York Gaming Commission is expected to wait for a critical mass of fully entitled and approved projects before awarding the three licenses at the same time.

Metropolitan Park seemingly has the merits needed to win one of the licenses. ~70% of the RFA focuses on economic impact, and in addition to the $8 billion of infrastructure improvements, the project will reportedly create 15,000 union jobs.

The group is proposing an overhaul of the local MTA station, on its dime, too.

But nothing is certain. Las Vegas Sands (Nassau), Wynn (Hudson Yards), and Bally’s (Trump Ferry Point) are among the other operators expected to apply. 

Should the Metropolitan Park project fail to receive a license, the real estate around Citi Field will likely remain a parking lot for the foreseeable future. Cohen’s lease on the land runs until 2105. 

The Gaming Commission’s decision isn’t going to impact Cohen’s pursuit of a championship either way.

“Steve wants to win the World Series and he’s going for it,” Sullivan said. “He’s rebuilding the farm system and putting a team together over time that can be a perennial winner…One doesn’t have anything to do with the other.”

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