Now that Forest City Ratner, owner of the Brooklyn Nets‘ Barclays Center, has been picked to renovate the Nassau Coliseum, there’s been increasing speculation whether this could mean the New York Islanders staying in Long Island instead of moving to Brooklyn in 2015. It’s mostly thanks to this Tom Van Riper piece in Forbes, which noted that 1) the Islanders were previously going to stay put if they got a renovated arena, and now FCR plans on renovating the arena; 2) at 13,000 seats, FCR’s arena plans wouldn’t take much expansion to beat out the 14,000 that Barclays will seat for hockey; 3) FCR can make more money selling signage at two arenas instead of one; and 4) the Islanders at least have a fan base on Long Island, and who knows how they’ll fare in Brooklyn?
All of which are reasonable points — as is the one that with Barclays Center doing bang-up business with concerts, they might no longer be so eager to jam up winter dates with hockey on top of basketball — but right now this is still just some Forbes writer thinking out loud. Bruce Ratner has come out and said that a renovated Coliseum will be too small for hockey, and the Brooklyn move is way too far along at this point to just up and abandon it for fear that fans won’t show up.
Ratner has indicated that the relocated Islanders could play six home games a year in Nassau under his plan, though, which leaves open an easy strategy to for him and Islanders owner Charles Wang to hedge their bets: Watch attendance in Brooklyn vs. Long Island, and tweak the number of home games hosted at each as they fit. (Ratner could even shift some games last-minute if, say, Beyoncé suddenly needs Barclays for some dates, but that would risk pissing off Brooklyn Islanders fans who have no idea where Nassau is and how to get there by artisanal transit.) It’s probably not a long-term solution — eventually the team needs to have an identity, and Brooklyn and Long Island are very distinct markets — but it would be one way to keep their options open.
Okay, before anyone says anything, that headline is blatantly misleading, I’ll readily admit: Forest City Ratner, which today was picked to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum and its surrounding property, is only a minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets now after selling majority ownership to Mikhail Prokhorov to raise funds to build the Barclays Center; and Madison Square Garden, which lost out to FCR, owns other stuff in addition to the Knicks. I feel dirty with SEO.
But anyway, Forest City Ratner will indeed be the Nassau Coliseum developers, which means it’s going to be their problem how to figure out to make over an arena with no anchor sports tenant and hefty competition from the Garden, the Prudential Center (now with less feeble owner), and, yes, Barclays. It’s conceivable that FCR will try to bundle its two arena properties somehow to offer something that the other local arenas can’t, but unless that’s “We won’t book you into Brooklyn unless you play your second local night on Long Island,” I’m not sure what that’d be.
Anyway, Nassau can now look forward to getting its own version of the Brooklyn spaceship, only with less rust on the outside. Not like anyone should care much in Nassau since no one lives within half a mile of the place there, and not like FCR’s initial designs in Brooklyn looked anything like what they ultimately built, but if you’re the type who gets off on vaportecture, go crazy.
If you’ve been waiting impatiently to find out who’s going to get the rights to redevelop Nassau Coliseum — there has to be somebody who roots (or even bets) on development rights, right? — you only have a few more hours to wait: Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is expected to announce a winner sometime today. Get out your Madison Square Garden and/or Forest City Ratner officially licensed jerseys and caps, sit down, and watch this space.
CNBC’s Squawk Box asked Brooklyn Nets minority owner and Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner if he’ll ask for public money to help with Nassau Coliseum if he wins the right to revamp that facility, and here’s what he said (according to Atlantic Yards Report’s transcription):
“What kind of subsidy will you ultimately be getting to do this?” Ratner was asked. “How much is the government going to have to put forward?
“This is one of those opposites,” Ratner replied. “We’re giving the municipality money, not a nickel from the municipality, all privately financed, all privately done. The county will make lot of money from this. In terms of economic impact and in terms of rent.”
Nothing for roads?
“One of the great things–it’s surrounded by a huge number of roads,” Ratner replied. “There’s millions of people that go by every day. There’s no infrastructure needed. After all, it was a Coliseum before and it is now, so no additional roads and so on. So, actually, it’s ready to be done, it is centrally located. I cannot emphasize what kind of incredible location it is and what kind of incredible population.”
Arena and stadium developers make “no public money” promises all the time when they end up asking for hidden subsidies like tax kickbacks, so we’ll see. (Or at least we’ll see, if Ratner beats out Madison Square Garden for the rights to take over the Coliseum, something that’s expected to be announced in coming weeks.) I’m not going to link to the original CNBC page because eeeagh autoplayed video, but here’s a lovely embedded video if you want to watch Ratner himself say it with his own two lips: