The New York Islanders NHL ice hockey franchise has broken ground on its $1.3bn (£1.05bn/€1.18bn) Belmont Park redevelopment project, which will be anchored by a new 19,000-seat arena.

The project will transform 43 acres of under-utilised parking lots at Belmont Park into a new state-of-the-art arena, with the site to also include a hotel, retail village, and office and community space. Project developers New York Belmont Partners will also improve two local parks as part of the agreement.

Additionally, a new full-time Long Island Rail Road station will be funded by the developers. The station will provide locals with access to the new arena and the other on-site amenities. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand for the opening ceremony, as well as New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

It is hoped the new arena will be completed in time for the 2021-22 NHL season. The Islanders said the construction of the arena, hotel and retail village will create 10,000 jobs over the next two years and generate $2.7bn in economic activity.

By 2024, it is projected that the development will sustain 3,200 new full-time jobs, produce $858m in annual economic activity and generate tens of millions of dollars in new annual tax revenue.

The Islanders currently split home games between Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island. Governor Cuomo has now announced that the team will play 28 regular-season games at the Coliseum during the 2019-20 campaign – seven more than originally planned.

The Islanders have played at Barclays Center since 2015 having previously spent more than 30 years at the Coliseum.

Governor Cuomo said: “The Islanders belong on Long Island – and today we start building the state-of-the-art home this team and their fans deserve while generating thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity for the region’s economy.

“With seven more Islanders games at the Coliseum this season, fans will have even more opportunities to see their favourite team and generate momentum for the move to their new home in two years. At the end of the day this project is about building on two great Long Island traditions – Belmont Park and the Islanders – and making them greater than ever.”  

Bettman added: “Thanks to the commitment, dedication and vision of Governor Cuomo, Islanders fans are getting the world-class home this team deserves. The Islanders belong on Long Island and the future is incredibly bright for this franchise.”

Image: New York Islanders