Nassau Coliseum: County says ‘No’ to new Islanders arena

A few thousand fans turned out at Nassau Coliseum for a rally to support the stadium prior to the vote.

The clock officially began ticking on the  Islanders’ time in Nassau County late Monday night.

Nassau County residents voted down Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s $400 million bond 57 percent to 43 percent. The Islanders’ lease at the Nassau Coliseum expires following the 2014-15 season and owner Charles Wang has been adamant that the Islanders will not play in the current building once the agreement is up.

“I’m disappointed. To put it bluntly I’m heartbroken,” Wang said when he and Mangano met reporters Monday night. Wang was seconded by General Manager Garth Snow and Senior Advisor to the General Manager and Assistant Coach Doug Weight. Neither Wang nor Mangano took questions from the media.

“I feel that sound bites rule the day and not the facts,” Wang added.

The Coliseum is the second oldest active arena in the National Hockey League. Wang estimated in an interview with WFAN last week that the building is used only 120 times a year. He suggested a new building — akin to Newark’s Prudential Center or Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center — could be in use at least 200 times a year. The Coliseum seats 16,250 for hockey and 18,000 for non-hockey events. Wang estimated that a new building could seat 17,500 for hockey and 19,000 for non-hockey events. The Islanders finished last in the NHL in attendance last season, with an average of 11,059.

Under Mangano’s plan — which he had repeatedly termed “a partnership” with the Islanders —  the County and the franchise would build a state of the art sports and entertainment venue, a minor league baseball stadium and a convention center on the 77 acres on which the Coliseum stands. He was also fervent in his belief that the project would create jobs and revenue. An analysis by the Bureau for Labor Employment published in April reported Nassau County has 6.3 percent unemployment.

But Mangano’s plan was criticized for a lack of clarity on how much the arena would cost local residents. The County Executive suggested costs would cap out at $400 million. But he could not articulate exactly how much the individual household would pay in additional property taxes.

A recent study by non-partisan tax research group, the Tax Foundation, said Nassau County residents pay an average of $8,206 a year in property taxes.

Mangano implied that there was a contingency strategy if the bond vote was shot down in a brief discussion with Metro during last week’s joint County-Islanders rally to create public support for the plan at the Coliseum.

“We would have to explore other options. Obviously there is other property here but this option that keeps the Islanders and builds on this concept of a great sports and entertainment destination,” Mangano said. “It’s the ability to save 2,100 jobs and create 3,000. This is the way to go.”

Mangano attempted to lift the mood by sharing his conviction that the results were “a beginning” and that the County would begin studying other options shortly.

The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils released statements Thursday and Friday credited to General Managers Glen Sather and Lou Lamoriello, respectively, in which the executives expressed their support for the Islanders’ cause and implored residents to vote for the bond. The National Hockey League did not comment on last night’s results.

Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.


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