Have the Islanders Finally Gotten Their New Arena?

Charles Wang, the owner of the New York Islanders, has been working at keeping the franchise on Long Island since he bought the team back in 2000. More than 11 years later, Wang may have finally found a way.

He has worked (or attempted to) with Town of Hempstead Supervisor, Kate Murray for parts of the past decade. He has set deadlines to get a response from the town on his proposal of not only a renovated Coliseum, but an entire expansion project that would turn the parking lot that surrounds the old arena into a Nassau County hot spot that would include a sports complex, restaurants, residences, five-star hotels and so much more. The Lighthouse Project, as it has been called, has been modified, scaled down and changed in more ways than one in efforts to meet the concerns of the Town of Hempstead. Traffic, taxes, irrigation and several other issues have always been at the forefront for Murray. Although these were obstacles that Wang had addressed, the two sides have never been able to come to a mutual agreement on the renovations to the surrounding property of the Nassau Coliseum.

This has led to speculation of the team one day being sold or moved. Kansas City, Quebec and other areas have been rumored as new possible destinations although none have ever come to fruition. The team has a lease that will keep them in Nassau County until 2015. And despite the fact that Wang has lost millions upon millions after buying this team, he has never strayed away from his desire to keep the team on Long Island.

Ed Mangano, who is the Nassau County Executive, has expressed the same desires to keep the Islanders where they belong and has proposed a way to do so, a way that may have finally caught fire.

Mangano feels that the Islanders deserve a renovated arena and is willing to do so with the addition of an Indian gaming casino run by the Shinnecock tribe. With the Shinnecocks cooperation, Mangano would be able to bypass the zoning approvals from the Town of Hempstead that have kept Wang's vision at a standstill for the past decade. This idea has been met with several opinions from both sides. The biggest argument is how the residents in the area feel about the construction of a gambling facility right next to Hofstra University, a major college on the Island that is located right across the street from Nassau Coliseum. Nassau Community College is only located a few yards farther down the road as well.

This idea has been floating around for some time now, at least for the past year. But it might not be lasting as an idea for much longer. I received an e-mail today about a press-conference that is being held at the Coliseum tomorrow. Although I cannot attend, I quickly started surfing the web to see what I missed while I was at work. I didn't have to look far as it already hit twitter and is the main story on the Islanders official web-site:

"MANGANO TO ANNOUNCE MAJOR
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & JOB CREATION PLAN

Mineola, NY - Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano will be joined by hundreds of local business, community and labor leaders on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. in announcing a major Economic Development and Job Creation Plan to build a world-class sports-entertainment destination center. After months of intense media speculation, the County Executive will also announce plans to pursue the construction of an Indian gaming casino."

Peter Botte, who is a professional sports writer and hockey reporter for the New York Daily News added to the hype with some of his latest posts on twitter:

"Isles totally mum, but tix reps are telling season-tix holders Wed announcement 'plan' for NEW arena, groundbreaking June '12, play 2015-16"

...but he did go on to add just a bit more that I have to agree with:

"Then again, I've been doing this long enough, on-and-off, to only believe it when I actually set foot in that new arena."

There have been plenty of stories, rumors and speculation as to when this saga would end.

But this does make sense. The Town of Hempstead really never made the Islanders a top priority and let Wang's proposal collect dust for several years before it was picked up, brushed off and completely revamped. Wang has also stated in the past that he would not share any information with the media until a resolution was near. The Lighthouse Project, or any talk for that matter about renovations, has been almost completely mute until now.

And if you read on further in the Islanders press-release, Wang will be in attendance with the event open to the public.

Is it possible that the end is finally in sight? That Islanders fans will finally hear what they have been eagerly waiting to hear for what seems like forever?

Financial implications and the impact it could potentially have on the community will likely not be disclosed until tomorrow, so this is one blogger who doesn't want to let his hopes reach the ceiling. But for Islanders fans, this is some of the best news that they have heard for quite some time.

-Rob McGowan

Follow me on Twitter!
http://twitter.com/IslesRM

Comments

George Prax's picture

I think Botte put it best when he said that he'll only believe it when he steps foot in the arena, lol. But it's definitely a step in the right direction, can't wait to see what comes of it.