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October 05, 2009
Wang unleashes Islanders move threat
Sure enough, the New York Islanders arena situation blew up big-time over the weekend, with team owner Charles Wang announcing that since no deal was in place by the time of Saturday's season opener, management planned to "explore all our options," including moving the team out of Long Island.
The center of the dispute is over getting zoning approval from the tiny town of Hempstead for Wang's multi-billion-dollar Lighthouse development project, which would include a rebuilt Nassau Coliseum for the Islanders. Wang contends that Hempstead officials are dragging their feet on giving approvals for the project, which has been in the works for years; Hempstead supervisors retort that they're still waiting for answers from Wang about what exactly the project would entail. In the latest twist, supervisor Kate Murray called Wang on Friday asking for a meeting to discuss the project, Wang told her it was too late for discussions, Murray passed this on to Newsday, and Wang declared that now he felt he couldn't trust Murray: "I don't want to say you can't, but it's difficult."
As to where else the Islanders might go, that's an excellent question: You may recall that the NHL is already looking at having one franchise in search of a home. A league source insisted to Fanhouse that six suitors were ready to woo the Islanders, but named only two: Kansas City and the New York City borough of Queens. Queens doesn't have an arena, though, and as we've discussed here, Kansas City's arena is run by AEG, which has an incentive not to offer a sweetheart deal to get a team to relocate.
And before anyone asks: The Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn has been "value engineered" to have too small a floor for a hockey rink. So that ain't happening either, not without Bruce Ratner finding more money under the sofa cushions.
Interesting... Ratner deliberately designed the building to exclude hockey? Well, certainly hockey isn't the draw that bball is, but it seems a little strange to deliberately exclude 40 potential home dates a year.
I'm sure an arena in Brooklyn won't suffer for lack of events anyway, but still. It seems a strange decision. Any idea how much money was 'notionally saved' by using this design?
I am no fan of Charles Wang or his tactics which include having training camp in Saskatchewan (Talk about slapping fans in the face), and having County Executive Tom Suozzi dropping the puck at center ice to start the game is pure politics (No matter what you think of Kate Murray, that is guaranteed to aggrivate her, because she is running against Suozzi). He should have had an ISLANDER such as Bossy, Trottier, or Arbour drop the puck.
The Islanders will not be moving for quite some time (Because of the lease situation), but there are places where they could eventually move. 1: Hamilton, Ontario (But under different ownership than Jim Basille). 2: Winnipeg, Manitoba. 3: Kansas City. 4: Portland. 5: Seattle. 6: Queens or Brooklyn. 7: Louisville.
Actually I think the idea of excluding hockey is a pretty good one. If you've got no use for a hockey rink, why add it? It's primarily a host for basketball and without having to cater to hockey could end up being the most intimate basketball venue in the country. And it's not like secondary events such as concerts, boxing matches, MMA matches, WWE, Globetrotters, Comedians...etc... etc... need ice, about all they've locked themselves out of are Disney on Ice and Figure Skating exhibitions. And secondary events that aren't other teams, tend to be more lucrative for arena owners anyway.
And just what cable TV company is willing to pay 20 million annually esculating to $38 million for the next 20 years for rights in KC or any of those other towns? Look at the whole story, Ratner might want to re-evaluate his floor situation in that how many arenas are in NY? The Garden? Newark, Meadowlands, Nassau Coliseum, Bridgeport and maybe Quuens. Someone is not thinking like Ratner but the again look at the New York Times building.
Januz: Suozzi is not running against Murray, who is up for re-election in the Town of Hempstead. Suozzi is the supervisor of Nassau County.
Also: Trottier and Bossy were part of the ceremony, though they didn't drop the puck.
Islanders trained in Saskatoon for one reason: money -- the same reason they trained in Nova Scotia for the last couple of years. They get all their expenses covered and maybe make some $$ on the preseason games (the one they did play at home had perhaps 4000 bodies at the Coliseum).
As for the lease: Suozzi and Wang signed a lease for the Lighthouse last week. The clock is now ticking on a process that could see Wang free to move the team well before the end of the current Coliseum lease, which runs out in 2015.