So this happened, or is happening, or is reported to be happening based on “people familiar with the matter”:
The Nassau Coliseum, the Long Island arena that hosted professional hockey games and rock concerts, is turning off the lights.
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment, which operates the arena under a lease from Nassau County, is planning to shutter the venue indefinitely while it seeks investors to take over operations and pick up the remaining debt on the building, according to people familiar with the matter.
Onexim has told potential investors that it would turn over the lease in return for assuming roughly $100 million in loans on the property, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private. The firm, which is laying off arena employees, could also surrender the lease to its lenders, the person said.
Onexim released a statement saying that the Coliseum’s value “will be best realized by other parties” and blaming the Covid pandemic for the move, but the Coliiseum has other, much bigger problems: It just underwent a $180 million renovation to modernize it so it could compete with other New York–area venues for concerts, then saw a whole new arena start construction at nearby Belmont Park. The last time something similar to this happened, it was Newark opening the Prudential Center just down the turnpike from the Meadowlands Arena (or whatever it was called right then), which resulted in the latter arena closing and turning into a state-subsidized movie soundstage, because there really aren’t enough events to go around in the tristate area to fill five arenas. Prokhorov clearly saw the writing on the wall then — he put the arena up for sale right after the Islanders arena was approved — so declaring Operation Shutdown is the next logical step, even if maybe loudly declaring that your arena can’t make any money is not the absolute best way to find buyers for it.
The immediate impact, of course, is that the New York Islanders now have nowhere to play (once having a place for sports teams to play becomes a thing again), as the team had only just announced earlier this year that it would be playing the 2020-21 season in Nassau after giving up on Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. (Okay, also it may mess with this summer’s planned drive-in movies in the arena parking lot, but I’m guessing somewhat fewer people will be concerned about that.) Newsday speculates that the team would have no choice but to return to Brooklyn for a season if the Coliseum remains shuttered once the next NHL season starts up sometime next winter, because its old lease says it has to play games at either the Coliseum or Barclays, but it will likely take lawyers with a fine-tooth comb to determine what that means if Nassau remains padlocked. Not that the Islanders would have many other options, though I suppose if pandemic-related bans on fans are still in effect come January 2021, they could always play at some college rink or in Iceland or something.
While the pandemic didn’t create venue glut, it certainly seems to be forcing some hard reckonings with it: The Rose Bowl is also reportedly trying to figure out how to stay afloat amid tons of other Los Angeles–area stadium options, with everything on the table from adding miniature golf to shutting down entirely, though the latter would be a last resort. (The Rose Bowl is also getting $11.5 million in emergency cash from its owner, the city of Pasadena, which is not going to help with Pasadena’s massive schools budget gap.) There’s been an awful lot of blinkered optimism about letting a thousand sports venues bloom and crossing fingers there’ll be enough events to go around; that was never going to work, and the pandemic is quickly making clear that the resulting shakeout is likely to hit the oldest venues the hardest, even if they’ve been recently renovated. Score one for the investors who rolled the dice on building the new Belmont Park arena, I guess, since they’re effectively grabbing a slice of a limited market by driving a competitor out of business — though New York state might want to revisit its economic impact projections for the public money it’s pouring into the Belmont site, now that it turns out it’s just likely to end up replacing one Nassau County arena with a shinier one.