Islanders, Wang Hopeful New Arena Proposal Secures Team's Future
The new Islanders arena plan "isn't the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project development" team Owner Charles Wang "originally had envisioned, but the proposal to build a new arena is one he supports as a reasonable alternative," according to Katie Strang of NEWSDAY. Wang and Nassau County Exec Edward Mangano yesterday "joined to endorse a $400-million referendum which -- with the approval of the county legislature -- could be put to Nassau County voters Aug. 1," and it "may be the team's best chance to remain on Long Island." Wang said, "I think it's realistic in terms of today's climate and so forth." Under terms of the proposal, construction "would commence next summer and a new arena for the Islanders would be available" by the '15-16 season. Mangano yesterday stressed the revenue-sharing plan was developed to not "cost the taxpayers a dime." Wang and Islanders officials "hope this move can re-energize the fan base and translate to a boost in morale -- and personnel -- on the ice" (NEWSDAY, 5/12). In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis notes with the Islanders' time in Nassau Coliseum "quickly coming to a head, Wang doesn't want to think about past failures." Wang said, "Everybody knows we're now faced with a deadline. We can't play past 2015, that's it. ... I'm very confident and optimistic." The Islanders also are "optimistic, hoping the proposal passes so they can stop answering questions about an uncertain future" (N.Y. POST, 5/12). Wang said, "We don't anticipate any problems. As people all know, we have a little experience in doing this now" ("NHL Live," NHL Network, 5/11). Asked about the Islanders' future should this proposal be voted down, Wang said, "(Calling it) a last chance sounds like a threat. I don't even want to think about that. I don't want to look at that, because I think this is going to work" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/12).
FACING A STEEP CLIMB? The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state fiscal watchdog, said yesterday it is "deeply concerned" about Mangano's proposal to borrow $400M for the new arena project. The NIFA, which "controls the county's finances and must approve the borrowing for the project, warned of the 'fiscal implications' for the county and said it was not consulted about the proposal." NIFA BOD member George Marlin said, "With the county in a state of fiscal despair -- and the fact that they are laying off county employees -- to saddle taxpayers with another $400 million in debt and to spend scarce dollars on a special election in my judgment is absurd." On Long Island, Robert Brodsky notes if the measure passes, a "supermajority of the legislature would have to authorize the borrowing, though NIFA could decide to squelch any bond issue" (NEWSDAY, 5/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Sean Leahy wrote, "If the vote happens to fail, it's not the final nail in the coffin for the Islanders keeping their home on Long Island ... but the lid will be just about shut" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/11). A NEWSDAY editorial states Mangano "deserves credit for trying to move forward the stalled development." But to "get the job done now, he'll have to convince voters that borrowing $400 million to publicly finance this new complex won't cost an extra dime." Mangano "has asked a panel of county elders to identify and even recruit complementary development of the 77 acres of county-owned land around the arena." The panel should "do even more and provide its opinion on whether income from the lease and sales taxes would cover the cost of borrowing an estimated $25 million to $40 million a year" (NEWSDAY, 5/12).