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July 11, 2012

Nassau pols float new Islanders arena plans, but money still an object

In case you were wondering, "Hey, is anybody in Nassau County working on a new arena plan for the Islanders?" why, yes, they are: County executive Ed Mangano issued a request for qualifications on Sunday for developers interested in building on the Nassau Coliseum site, and Nassau Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs has now introduced his own competing arena plan.

In case you're wondering whether either of these guys has figured out how to pay for an arena, not so much: Mangano would leave that up to the developers, while Jacobs proposes that the Islanders put up $320 million of the construction cost, while the other $80 million comes out of admission taxes, which currently generate about $1.5 million a year for the county's general fund. (This would go up to $2.65 million a year with a new arena, according to county projections, which, um, still isn't nearly enough to pay off $80 million in bonds.)

Given that Islanders owner Charles Wang's last proposal was that the county put up all the money and he'd pay it back from arena proceeds, if there are any, neither of these sounds all that likely to warm Wang's heart. But where there are talks, there's hope — and hey, if some guy in Seattle thinks that he can build and run an arena mostly with private money, maybe it could work in the continent's biggest media market, too.


They could have frozen the pool of industry cement pond, oh thats right MLS already wants to build there, and its better to ask for a billion in free money anyway.

Posted by Steven on July 11, 2012 11:09 PM

Wang has said he won't be in the Coliseum past the end of the lease and there's no way to get a new building before that so it's a given the Islanders are moving? Is there any hope for Brooklyn or are they leaving the area?

I'm assuming Wang won't want to be Ratner's tenant (not enough money to be made that way).

Posted by tom on July 12, 2012 12:32 PM


Last I checked, the Brooklyn arena cannot reasonably accommodate an NHL ice surface. Wang didn't want to be a (paying) tenant for obvious reasons, so he opted out and Ratner/Prokhorov built the building for basketball only.

Neil has looked into this much more than I have, so perhaps he can comment better on it, but as I understand it, the seating bowl cannot be easily converted to accept a regulation ice surface as is done in many other shared NHL/NBA buildings.

Wang may well have said he "won't" be in the building past the end of the lease. That is just 3 years away, however. Having somewhere to move to would be a necessity before he could move. Frankly, I don't see a viable option for him in 2015 as things stand. There are places a team might make money (QC, Seattle, Toronto2), but those presently do not have arenas (though all "might" by 2015). The places in which arenas exist (KC, Houston and, err, um...) do not appear to have any credible willing owners for the team (assuming Wang doesn't want to leave Long Island) - also a problem with Seattle, where the NBA owner would accept an NHL tenant, but wisely wants no part of ownership.

If Wang could move the team to Toronto, I think he would. But he can't. The Leafs will never allow it.

Would he move to a relatively small market like Quebec just for a new building? He'd make some money there, but I'm not sold he'd make more than he can with modest upgrades to the coliseum & transit in Uniondale. And he'd be trading a share of the biggest market in NA for the smallest one in the league by quite some way.

Would he move to KC? Well, the NHL has failed there before. However, they do have a new building, which is a plus. Balanced against that, the new building is owned and controlled by AEG, who aren't going to be willing to share any of their profit with a "homeless" owner like Wang who has little option or negotiating power. Not sure KC would net him more money than the aging coliseum does, and again, he'd be trading down significantly in market size.

My bet is he backs off the ledge he is on and works out a deal to stay on Long Island. The league isn't going to pay him for voluntarily surrendering a share of the NY market (however small his share is), and he doesn't really have a good option elsewhere - barring perhaps Quebec city (which might involve selling the team to Peledeau). If he wants to remain an NHL owner, I think it will be in NY (somewhere). If not, it's certainly possible the team will move once it is sold.

As far as I'm aware, he likes being an NHL owner (and meddling horrendously with his team, hiring morons to run it, and blaming others for his poor management record). But if he wants out, there will probably be buyers.

I wonder if a different owner would have a better chance of building something with the town/county? Even keeping in mind the county's financial state, I have to think they are tired of Wang's ridiculous demands and would be more willing to work with someone else. The fans seem to be tired of Chuckie too, judging by the recent plebiscite.

Posted by John Bladen on July 12, 2012 02:01 PM

They can wedge in an ice surface at Barclays, but only by removing 4,000 seats. So it's less than ideal, unless you think that being in Brooklyn is so totally awesome that it's worth having the NHL's smallest arena and being a sub-tenant to the Nets. (I live here and even *I* don't think it's that awesome.)

For the rest, I'd say John's analysis is right on. It's not that Wang is totally bluffing when he says that he'll move in 2015. It's that it's a threat that he can make now and worry about whether he can follow through on it later.

Posted by Neil deMause on July 12, 2012 02:07 PM

Facing the home stretch of another election cycle (even if it is not there own) politicians can't resist coming up with ways to get their names in print no matter how much it contributes to the "silly season".

Posted by Paul W on July 12, 2012 02:08 PM

The Islanders are hosting a preseason game in Brooklyn on Oct. 2. The ice surface is regulation; the building will play to a capacity of 14,500. That's 1,784 fewer seats than the Nassau Coliseum has. The Barclays Center will have more suites and expensive seating. If the Islanders commit long-term, I'm sure more seats could be added (since they would benefit a tenant who will be there for a while).

Wang offered to build/renovate a Coliseum as part of the Lighthouse project; the Town of Hempstead eventually dragged things out and killed the project. Nassau voters decided last year they didn't want to pay for the building. The RFQ (and the equally inane idea put out by Democrat Jay Jacobs) are just CYA moves.

Basically, the powers that be in Nassau and the town of Hempstead want the Islanders gone -- but they don't want to take the heat. Wang will unquestionably move in 2015 -- and he'll have the backing of Commissioner Gary Bettman, who has already gone on record as saying they won't stay without a new building.

The RFQ from Nassau called on developers to submit proposals for a Coliseum with and without the Isles. Bet on the second one being the one that the politicians want. But with a new building in Brooklyn, a like-new Madison Square Garden in 2014 and 2 buildings in north Jersey, I don't know how Nassau thinks it will make money on any kind of building.

Posted by DonK on July 13, 2012 12:13 AM

They'd have a hard time adding more hockey-configuration seats to Barclays without knocking down a wall. It's tight.

Posted by Neil deMause on July 13, 2012 12:21 AM

John Bladen's overview is dead on.

I don't think he can move the team to QC because Quebecor certainly wants to be the owner of any team that plays there.

My theory all along has been Phoenix gets sold and moves to QC. Islanders get sold to someone else and move to Seattle, if the arena deal gets approved. There are sometemp facilities that a hockey team could play in while they wait for the arena to be built in Seattle.

Hansen has been very vocal about including an NHL team into his marketing, PR and interview material it makes me think he has some kind of potential NHL owner in the wing. I don't think it is Hulsizer who was rummored to want to bring a team to Bellevue about a year and half ago. The League also confirmed in May of 2011 that they met with someone who wanted to bring a team to Seattle but I don't think it was ever confirmed who it was.

Posted by JB on July 13, 2012 12:23 PM

The owner of the AHL's Chicago Wolves (who's name escapes me at the moment) has apparently said he's interested in owning an NHL team in Seattle, but I don't know if there has been any formal contact with the league or Hansen's group.

Posted by John Bladen on July 13, 2012 06:33 PM

Don Levin

Posted by arch leester on July 13, 2012 06:58 PM

Those of us who are advocating for a move to Brooklyn are fully aware of the shortcomings of the arena there. However--and it was mentioned here in one post--the amount of potential revenue from luxury boxes, restaurants, etc. is far greater than in Nassau. I realize that it's not like the Islanders are going to get all that revenue, but they would presumably get some.

I have been having an email exchange with Neil, the owner of this blog, who is clearly skeptical of the Islanders in Brooklyn. My argument is that Ratner etc. have been falling all over themselves to say to the Isles: we want you. The over-the-top promotion of a preseason game; Ratner getting interviewed between periods at one of the final Islander games last year. Everything they've done shouts out that we want those minimum 41 dates in our building.

Maybe, eventually, some changes can be made to the Brooklyn structure. Maybe an Islanders' arena in Queens will work. Maybe not. But in the short term, I still see the Brooklyn zigzag as the best step.

Posted by John Kingston on July 15, 2012 10:29 AM

Isn't the Islander TV deal with MSG one of the most lucrative in the NHL?

Posted by Stephen on July 16, 2012 01:01 PM

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