SBD/August 3, 2011/Facilities

Mangano Urges Private Developers To Create New Nassau Coliseum Plans

Mangano wants to keep Islanders from leaving after lease expires in '15
Nassau County Exec Edward Mangano yesterday urged private developers to "pitch redevelopment plans" for the Nassau Coliseum site "in an effort to keep the Islanders from departing when the team's lease expires" in '15, according to Brodsky & Marshall of NEWSDAY. As some "potential suitors expressed interest in luring" the NHL franchise away from Long Island, Mangano "sought to reframe the issue a day after county voters defeated a referendum that would have permitted borrowing of up to $400 million to build a new arena and a minor league ballpark." Nassau County will "consider leasing or selling the land," and Mangano "called for preliminary proposals to be submitted by Aug. 12." He said, "This is a call to action. If you have proposals, bring them forward." Mangano's remarks came as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "expressed hope that the Islanders can remain on Long Island." Islanders Owner Charles Wang, who has said that he would move the team if a new Nassau Coliseum is not built, "did not respond to requests for comment" yesterday. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said that he has "talked with Wang about the team moving to the new Barclays Center, where the Nets will play beginning in 2012." Markowitz: "It will be a little smaller than the other spaces across the country, but still large enough to generate the type of income that a team needs." Nets CEO Brett Yormark confirmed that Barclays Center "could accommodate an NHL-sized rink, but it would hold 'a few thousand' fewer seats for hockey games than basketball" (NEWSDAY, 8/3). In Toronto, Lance Hornby writes the failure of Monday's referendum "doesn't mean the one-time dynasty is doomed to relocation." With four more seasons before the arena lease expires, the team "can either dream up another re-development plan for its current home or look elsewhere in the New York area to build or partner" (TORONTO SUN, 8/3).

WAITING FOR ICE TIME: Yormark yesterday said Barclays Center officials "hope to explore hockey opportunities in the future." In N.Y., Rich Calder notes some Brooklyn-area officials "privately said they could see Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who also owns 45 percent of the Barclays Center, potentially acquiring the Islanders to add 44-60 dates per year to help fill the arena." However, a Prokhorov spokesperson yesterday said the Nets owner "has no interest in buying another sports team at this time" (N.Y. POST, 8/3). Also in N.Y., Klein & Belson report Brooklyn and Quebec City are the "front-runners at this very early stage" to land the Islanders should the team relocate, with K.C., Seattle and Hamilton, Ontario, "regarded as much longer shots." Moving the Islanders to Brooklyn "would keep much of the Islanders’ fan base intact and would help preserve the club’s legacy." It also would "provide Wang or whoever owns the Islanders with luxury-box revenue, and more access to public transportation than the Coliseum has." Klein & Belson note Quebec City is "probably first in line to get a relocated NHL team, but right now it seems most likely that the Phoenix Coyotes, not the Islanders, will be that team." If Brooklyn and Quebec City "are not available, the Islanders may look" to Sprint Center in K.C. (N.Y. TIMES, 8/3). ESPN.com's Doug McIntyre wrote moving to Brooklyn "makes a ton of sense," and if not there, Canada "seems the Isles' next most likely destination" (ESPN.com, 8/2). But SportsNet N.Y.’s Marc Malusis said if the Islanders "leave the island, that rivalry, Islanders-Rangers, all the history with what they've been able to do out there at the Nassau Coliseum -- it'd be a hit for the hockey league” ("The Wheelhouse," SportsNet N.Y., 8/2). 

WHY VOTERS REJECTED THE DEAL: On Long Island, Ted Phillips reports Nassau County Board of Elections data reveals that the Islanders' referendum "was rejected by voters in 18 of the county's 19 legislative districts." Countywide, the final margin of defeat was 57% to 43%. The "only district to approve the borrowing was the 17th, the seat formerly held by the project's champion," Mangano. Voter turnout on Monday "was low, with 155,218 out of 899,343 registered voters, or 17.26 percent, casting ballots" (NEWSDAY, 8/3). In N.Y., David Halbfinger analyzes the vote under the header, "Fiscal Worries Fueled Defeat Of Arena Plan." Monday's defeat was "caused by an unlikely but broad coalition: Tea Party members and Democratic leaders, elderly residents already worried about the fate of Social Security and Medicare, parents of young children and powerful real estate developers." Voters still "rattled by the federal showdown over the debt limit said they opposed the plan for a new arena." Those voters explained that they "were less concerned about the future of a faded hockey franchise than about paying their monthly bills" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/3). N.Y. Daily News reporter Bill Madden said, "In this economic environment, they were asking to raise taxes to build an arena for a billionaire? I mean come on, give me a break” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y. 8/2).

EDITORIALS PRAISE RESULT: A N.Y. POST editorial states the referendum's failure is "good news for homeowners, whose sky-high property taxes would have soared another 4 percent to cover the debt load for the arena." Nassau County voters "rightly saw that costs would be borne on their backs alone -- and that they’d only worsen property taxes that already bleed the average household for $11,500 a year." The editorial continues, "Nassau is at a breaking point, and in no position to shower money on a struggling hockey team. Voters made the right call" (N.Y. POST, 8/3). A N.Y. TIMES editorial stated voters showed "far better sense and grasp of arithmetic than their elected leaders." The deal "stunk," and if Wang "needs a new arena, let him build it" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/3). Wang this morning released an open letter in response to the vote (THE DAILY).

TIME TO OWN UP: In Toronto, Damien Cox writes it is "pretty clear Long Island does not want Charles Wang." The fate of the referendum "seemed a vote of non-confidence in Wang, who has been at best an idiosyncratic owner, and at worst an out-and-out disaster utterly incapable of organizing a legitimate big-league hockey club." If Wang "wants the Islanders to stay in Nassau County, the most constructive move he could make would be to sell the club to someone else" (TORONTO STAR, 8/3). In N.Y., Larry Brooks writes Monday "might have been a bad day" for Wang, but it "was not necessarily a bad day for the Islanders." Under current circumstances, it is "all but impossible to make the argument that public money should be used to build an arena or stadium anywhere and for anyone wealthy enough to own a pro sports team." Brooks adds, "This doesn't mean the end of the Islanders, either in Nassau County or perhaps in neighboring boroughs Brooklyn or Queens. It just means we're one step closer to the end-game for Wang as the team's owner" (N.Y. POST, 8/3). SI.com's Stu Hackel wrote, "No franchise gets moved if the league believes the team has been or can be a success where it is and ownership is willing to keep it there. Charles Wang may not want to keep the Islanders on the Island, but Gary Bettman will find someone else who does." The Islanders are a "classic 'handyman's special,' and if Wang plays his cards right, someone will come along and buy them, maybe even give him something closer to the $187.5 million" that he and Sanjay Kumar paid for the team. Hackel: "Think no one is out there who can do that? Think ... Jim Balsillie" (SI.com, 8/2).
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