New York: Mets owner Steve Cohen unveils $8 billion casino project in Queens with Hard Rock International

The MLB’s New York Mets owner, Steve Cohen, has unveiled plans to collaborate with Hard Rock International in the development of an $8 billion casino and entertainment complex on a 50-acre parking lot adjacent to the Citi Field baseball stadium in Queens.

The project, named Metropolitan Park, is part of Cohen’s bid for one of three state licenses available for constructing a full-scale casino in downstate New York. While the mogul’s intention to build a casino has been public knowledge for some time, the recently disclosed details of the proposal confirm Cohen’s partnership with Hard Rock and architectural firm SHoP Architects, Bloomberg reported.

Metropolitan Park is set to encompass 20 acres of newly created public park space, designed by Field Operations, a landscape architecture firm recognized for its contributions to the High Line in Manhattan and Freshkills Park in Staten Island.

The development would also include 5 acres dedicated to community athletic fields, bike paths, playgrounds, and climate-resilient infrastructure, such as solar installations, green roofs, and flood mitigation measures. In addition, the project would feature a revamped mass-transit station and a “Queens food hall.”

Included in the proposal is a Hard Rock hotel and casino and a separate sportsbook site. Those backing the project said it can become “the next great New York landmark” and will serve as a year-round draw for tourists.

Mets owner Steve Cohen

It’s time the world’s greatest city got the sports and entertainment park it deserves. When I bought this team, fans and the community kept saying we needed to do better. Metropolitan Park delivers on the promise of a shared space that people will not only want to come to and enjoy but can be truly proud of,” Cohen was quoted as saying in a New York Post article.

The plan encompasses new pathways that will provide better access to the Flushing Bay waterfront, as well as Flushing-Corona Park, from the surrounding community. Enhanced mass transit options, road networks, and parking facilities are also part of the proposal. Cohen anticipates that this project will generate approximately 15,000 jobs, including both permanent positions and opportunities in construction.

Despite Cohen’s extensive efforts, including engaging multiple lobbying firms and community outreach, there are notable challenges to the realization of Metropolitan Park. The proposed casino site is situated on state-owned parkland, necessitating the passage of a legislative bill for land annexation.

Although such a bill was introduced in the previous legislative session, it has not yet been scheduled for a vote. Furthermore, any casino proposal must gain approval from a majority of members of a sitting board composed of local elected officials from the district where the potential casino would be located. Additionally, the project requires endorsement from state gaming regulators, which are set to issue up to three new casino licenses for the downstate region.

Notably, a press release highlighting support from business and community leaders did not include the names of legislators. New York Sen. Jessica Ramos, in particular, has not expressed support for the project. Ramos, who represents the communities around the Mets’ Citi Field in Willets Point, had temporarily blocked the Cohen from pursuing a plan to build a casino and entertainment complex in the lots next to the ballpark. 

For Cohen, whose net worth is estimated at $13.9 billion, the potential returns make the associated risks worthwhile. A study conducted by Spectrum Gaming suggests that by 2025, a Queens casino could generate annual revenue of $1.9 billion, Bloomberg said. The surrounding area is home to significant attractions, including Flushing Corona Park, the U.S. Open Tennis Center, and a planned soccer stadium for New York City FC, backed by Mayor Eric Adams.

The state has not established a deadline yet for prospective casino bids or the date for the final decision regarding the allocation of licenses.