Written by Mike Barry Friday, 24 February 2012 00:00
The county-owned Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale is a 67-acre site used extensively by high school and college athletes. Yet few others, outside of their fans, have reason to visit this venue, which is located west of the Nassau Coliseum.
The Mangano administration wants the complex to become a ‘destination location’ and, with that goal in mind, is seeking a private-sector developer to build, and operate, an indoor facility at the complex, which could host “youth recreation, amateur sports, exhibitions and public events.”This Public Indoor Recreation & Exposition Facility, as it is described in a 32-page request for proposals (RFP) the county issued earlier this month, would if constructed be situated on a 100,000 square foot (two-plus acres) lot north of the complex’s four softball fields. The deadline for responding to the RFP is Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Named after John Purroy Mitchel (1879-1918), the youngest person ever elected New York City’s mayor, the Mitchel Athletic Complex already has a number of amenities. The complex’s outdoor stadium features a track and field oval, which surrounds a synthetic field suitable for football, soccer and lacrosse games. The stadium serves as home to Nassau Community College’s (NCC) athletic, physical education and intramural sports programs. NCC’s campus is north of the complex.
Besides the four softball fields, the complex has two baseball fields, too. The fields are open to the public but a permit and payment of a fee are required for access to them. The general public can use the track free of charge when no other events are scheduled. In addition, the complex houses the Nassau County Rifle and Pistol Range.
A Public Indoor Recreation & Exposition Facility in Uniondale, the RFP explains, would provide for the “operation of a first-class facility accommodating a wide range of community sport, recreation, public interests and exposition and tourism.”
Nassau County is also asking RFP respondents to offer imaginative architectural and engineering designs for a facility that would make creative use of open space while at the same time boosting county sales tax revenues. Today, the county receives little income from the complex outside of user fees.
“A private-financed Expo Center can help generate the dollars needed to hold the line on property taxes while supporting local jobs at surrounding businesses, restaurants and hotels. This is a win-win for our local economy,” stated Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.
The federal government transferred the 67-acre Mitchel Athletic Complex property to Nassau County in 1968 on the condition that the land be set aside as public parkland and used for recreational pursuits. As such, the complex is subject to certain deed restrictions limiting the property’s use. The RFP states that, “While it is the intention of the County to create a public recreational and exposition facility consistent with the existing deed restrictions, these deed restrictions may need to be released from the [Mitchel Athletic Complex] Site and placed on other County-owned land as a condition of any transaction.”
In other words, if this project comes to fruition, the county may have to designate two-plus acres it owns elsewhere as public parkland to offset the conversion of a two-plus acre complex parcel into a for-profit enterprise.