Thursday, August 6, 2009

Aqueduct Bidder AEG May be Community Favorite

By Patricia Adams

As the state closes in on awarding the contracts for the construction and management of the proposed racino at Aqueduct Racetrack, bidders have been presenting their formal plans to the Albany powers that be. The Aqueduct Entertainment Group, LLC (AEG) has, according to some close to the bidding process, emerged as a lead contender for the coveted project.

Comprised of several partners, AEG was formed for the express purpose of bidding on, winning and building a world class gaming and entertainment destination. Included in the group are GreenStar Services Corporation, for development, construction and overall coordination; the Navegante Group, as the gaming developer and operator; the Darman Group, Inc. and Empowerment Development Corporation, as co-developers and minority and women-owned business coordinators; Siemens, as technology partner; PS&S, to lead the architectural, engineering and environmental effort; and CleanPower, an environmental firm, who will employ Green Building Strategies. Levine Builders will provide construction management services.

The company will be chaired by Richard Mays, a former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice and nationally known attorney. “The collective experience of our team and the offer that we have presented the State of New York, is one that we believe that no other bidder can top,” said Richard Mays.

Larry Roman who serves as Vice Chairman of Greenstar Services Corporation explained some of the projects details. “Our vision is to build a complex modeled after seven communities in New York. We’re going to build New York City, not “Sin” city.” Roman clearly stated, that while he has the utmost respect for other companies involved in the bid, it is AEG that has the local New York community the most to offer.

Citing the fact that his group has already secured all of their subcontractors, something other bidders haven’t even approached, Roman went on to say, “We are totally prepared for this project. We’re turning into the stretch while our competitors have not even gotten out of the gate.” Five Star Electric located in Ozone Park will serve as the electrical sub contractor. The local shop has access to more than 1,200 union electricians.

If AEG holds up to their promises, it may very well be that they are the group best suited to help the state rebound from the projected revenue lost in a collapsed deal with last round bid recipient Delaware North, back in March of this year.

Community leaders and residents agree that one attractive aspect of the AEG deal is the deadlines they say they’ll conform to upon getting the bid. Andrew Frank, the Managing New York partner for Kreab Gavin Anderson, the overall coordinator for AEG, explained its commitment to a timeline. “If this bid is awarded by mid September, AEG will have 1,200 machines up and running by April 1, 2010 and another 2000 machines by June 15th , at which point the second floor will be complete.” When all else is said and done the group say they will be in a position to provide revenue to the state by the upcoming April.

The construction partners in AEG have a track record for timely completion. According to those at the heart of this decision process, reliability and expeditious construction are extremely important. “We can’t afford another bad deal,” said Senator Joe Addabbo. “We’re really looking hard.” Addabbo did not say who his choice would be but he was definitive about one of the bidders. “Right now we are looking for the best developer. I don’t know yet who that is until we see everything. But what I do know is that we do not want Deleware North.”

State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer expressed her concerns over hundreds of millions of dollars the state has lost since the last bid failed and says that she and fellow legislators will scrutinize all bidders to make sure the community is protected. “Each bidder has a different plan for the VLT’s and for Aqueduct,” Pheffer said, adding, “now we’re making sure they can live up to their claims.”

The proposed Casino and Raceway plan from the Aqueduct Entertainment Group would feature a LEED Certified Sustainable Casino and Racetrack with 4,500 VLT’s in seven different “neighborhoods.” The project will also host quality retail shops and restaurants set among the theme of the seven different neighborhoods. One such themed neighborhood incorporated into the design plan is a section modeled after of the Lower East side of New York and will feature a famed Kosher Deli.

In addition the AEG plan includes the Aqueduct Racing Museum and community meeting space. Those who use public transportation will find an enclosed, elevated walkway from the subway station and a bus drop-off. A parking garage will house 2,400 cars. To finish off their proposal, AEG will build a 300-room destination hotel, a banquet and conference center and a 2,500-seat entertainment center.

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