Amazing Races in Commercial Real Estate

The big names on Power 100 building sports venues and betting on casinos

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Competition for New York City commercial real estate projects played out on all ends of the field during the past year with a number of contenders in the sports and casino worlds looking to get into the game.

On the leasing front, one of the biggest Big Apple deals in early 2024 came from the professional sports world when Major League Soccer (MLS) signed for 126,000 square feet in two floors in Vornado Realty Trust (VNO)’s Penn 2 building. The deal nearly doubled the 64,200 square feet MLS previously occupied at 420 Fifth Avenue going back to 2015 and showcased how bullish the 29-year-old professional sports league is on having a major New York presence. 

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The biggest New York CRE sports development of the last year also involved MLS when the New York City Council in April 2024 approved a project in Willets Point, Queens, to be anchored by a 25,000-seat stadium that will be home to New York City Football Club (NYCFC). The project will also ultimately include 2,500 units of affordable housing, a 650-seat school and a 350-room hotel.

The stadium project and housing portions of the development are being led by the New York City  Economic Development Corporation, the Related Companies, Sterling Equities and Langan. NYCFC and the developers set the balls in motion in January 2024 when they acquired the last piece of vacant land needed for the large-scale development from Eric Benaim for $12.3 million.

The NYCFC stadium will add to the sports destinations in Queens, as it sits roughly two football fields away from Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which hosts the U.S. Open. It is also close to where Mets majority owner and hedge fund manager Steve Cohen is proposing to build a casino in partnership with Hard Rock International on an empty lot adjacent to Citi Field.

Related’s involvement with the Willets Point redevelopment puts it in close proximity to one of its many competitors for its own casino proposal, a 5.6-acre resort in the western portion of its Hudson Yards project. The Related proposal, in partnership with Wynn Resorts, is among more than a half-dozen pitches in the New York region vying for three available downstate casino licenses.

One of the Big Apple casino proposals is from Thor Equities, which has partnered with Saratoga Casino Holdings, the Chickasaw Nation and Legends on a possible $3 billion facility in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Another proposal comes from SL Green Realty and its partners Roc Nation (as in Jay-Z’s company) and Caesars Entertainment that would transform part of 1515 Broadway into a gambling destination. 

The New York State Gaming Commission said in  March it was unlikely to announce the winners of the downstate casino licenses until late 2025, meaning the next year will be off to the races as developers seek to cross the finish line victorious.

Andrew Coen can be reached at acoen@commercialobserver.com.