SBD/May 16, 2011/Facilities

Wang Will Pay For Nassau Arena Vote If Islanders Land New Facility

Wang will only pay for Nassau County vote if arena plan passes in August
A special election on whether to allow Nassau County to borrow $400M to "build a hockey arena and minor-league ballpark could cost as much as $1.8 million, a tab the Islanders say the team will reimburse if it gets the nod for a new Nassau Coliseum," according to Randi Marshall of NEWSDAY. Islanders Owner Charles Wang's "unusual offer would kick in only if the vote passes on Aug. 1, and the county legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which controls the county's finances, approve the bonding." Legal experts said that they "had never heard of such an arrangement." Nassau officials said that the "reimbursement would be part of a final contract with Wang, vetted by the county attorney's office" (NEWSDAY, 5/14). In N.Y., Larry Brooks noted there "apparently is no suggestion that Wang -- who has lost a considerable amount of money on the club, but presumably would recoup much if not all of it through revenues generated by a new arena, franchise sale or relocation -- spend any more of his own in order to keep the team at home." If voters do not approve the plan, the Islanders "essentially will be facing four lame-duck seasons at the Coliseum, unless a prospective buyer emerges who is willing to pony up $350-400M to construct a new arena, a most unlikely proposition" (N.Y. POST, 5/15). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote, "Without a new rink, the Nassau voters essentially will be voting the Islanders off the island" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/15).

PLENTY OF HURDLES TO CLEAR: On Long Island, Brodsky, Marshall & Phillips note the arena proposal faces "daunting challenges." First, there is the "need to get approval for a bond referendum from a public wary of government spending." In addition, the "county legislature needs to give its OK." The Nassau Interim Finance Authority "has indicated it has questions about the plan and wants more data on the cost and the benefits." To date, "no obvious, well-organized opposition to the project has surfaced, but there are still few details to oppose." Wang said that he "wants voters to have full disclosure about the details." Wang: "We'll do everything we can to make it work, get the information out, make people understand what the alternatives are, and we'll keep working at it" (NEWSDAY, 5/16).
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