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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Citi Field Needs Better Surroundings. The Mets Owner Wants A Casino

  • Team owner looks to transform oft-criticized stadium neighborhood
  • State legislators have approved up to three downstate casino licenses
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has made it clear he wants to transform the oft-criticized Queens neighborhood adjacent to Citi Field — and he thinks building a casino is the way to do it.

For years, the area has been dominated by a glut of auto repair shops, and Cohen envisions a casino as the center of a mixed-use development drawing fans before and after Mets games, similar to many other sports facility projects around the country.

“There’s nothing going on. The only thing you can do at Citi Field is get your hubcap changed or maybe get back a catalytic converter,” Cohen said at a Sportico conference. “The way I would describe it is 50 acres of cement.”

There is some additional development coming to the area with NYCFC’s separate plans to develop a $780 million soccer-specific stadium adjacent to Citi Field. But Cohen sees a potential opportunity in landing one of the maximum three casino licenses approved by legislators earlier this year for downstate New York.

“I have tons of ideas I want to implement,” he said. “You can’t spend an unlimited amount of money, so you’ve got to budget. And also, dealing with the underinvestment that I had to deal with coming in, I call it the money pit.”

Several other MLB teams have physical sportsbooks in or near their ballparks, including the Mets themselves at Citi Field. But a casino would be new for a major league ballpark setting.

Cohen’s expenditures also extend to the Mets’ record-setting payroll, which reached $344 million before a series of trade deadline moves amid a highly disappointing 75-87 season. The owner later apologized for the poor performance in an open letter to fans and pledged a “sustainable” future for the club.

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