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Volume 20 No. 46
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Nassau’s back, and bringing sports with it

The songs of Long Island native Billy Joel filled the Nassau Coliseum last Wednesday, when the 45-year-old arena reopened after an 18-month, $165 million renovation.

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which also runs Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, is hoping to stage more than 200 events at the Uniondale, N.Y., facility during the next 12 months. How many will be sports?

The former Memphis Open will make the renovated arena its home starting next year.
The newest sports attraction to set up shop there is an ATP stop being moved from Memphis after a run of 40-plus years. What has been called the Memphis Open and remains the only indoor ATP event in America will be held Feb. 10-18, 2018, at what’s now officially the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Presented by New York Community Bank.

Additionally, industry sources said the National Lacrosse League is taking a hard look at the coliseum, situated in a lacrosse hotbed, and likely will rent the building and install an NLL franchise there beginning in 2018.

The NBA D-League Long Island Nets begin play there later this year. There are UFC and WWE events planned, along with college basketball from teams including Villanova and Maryland.

With the New York Islanders’ future as a tenant at Barclays Center in doubt, there’s been some political saber rattling about that team returning to its former home, though it would easily be the smallest NHL arena in its current configuration, which seats 13,900 for hockey. A plan to play six Islanders games there has yet to receive league approval. Either Islanders ownership or Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment can terminate the Isles’ lease agreement in Brooklyn next January.

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark said that while big musical acts avoided the building once it fell into disrepair, now he’s been able to leverage the Barclays/Nassau Coliseum combination to get dates at both arenas from acts as big as Bruno Mars and Barbra Streisand. In sports, he’s leveraged the combo for separate WWE and UFC appearances. When the NCAA selects sites for the 2019-22 men’s basketball tournaments later this month, Yormark is hopeful of getting dates for both buildings, with Barclays taking later rounds. The Brooklyn venue had first- and second-round games in 2016.

The revitalized Nassau Coliseum is “a building without a major league sports tenant, but we are embracing and selling the flexibility it affords,” Yormark said, adding that sponsorship revenue at the coliseum, which never before had a naming-rights sponsor, has increased more than 200 percent.

Yormark described the tennis tournament as a joint venture with event owner GF Sports and said sales also will be done in tandem.

When GF Sports acquired the Memphis Open ATP stop in 2015, it became the tourney’s third owner in three years. Flagging attendance and sponsorship revenue preceded the move to Long Island. The event will be the first tennis tournament at the coliseum, although World TeamTennis matches were held there in the 1970s.

GF Sports’ other tennis properties are the BB&T Atlanta Open and the BNP Paribas Showdown exhibition at Madison Square Garden.