Isles Fans Will Vote To Decide Fate of Arena Proposal

It's time for everyone to place their bets! Will the Islanders get the arena that Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano has proposed? Or will the voting process fail, forcing Islanders owner Charles Wang to explore the possibilities of selling the team?

Ultimately it is up to you, Islanders fans.

Today the organization held a press conference at the Nassau Coliseum, one of the oldest facilities in the NHL. Mangano announced with Wang, and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and other businesses and community leaders, a proposal that would turn the old barn into "a world-class sports-entertainment destination center in the heart of Nassau County including a new sports arena and a minor league ballpark," as stated per the Islanders official web-site.

"The County Executive also announced that he, along with New York State Senators Dean Skelos and Jack Martins, will pursue the construction of an Indian gaming casino at Belmont Park."

For those of you who don't know, Belmont Park is a bit further west from Uniondale, where the Coliseum is located. It is also a site of The New York Racing Association, where horse track racing is conducted. Obviously that means that legal betting already takes place here, so adding a casino isn't something that should be looked at as outrageous. The fear of a gambling site being constructed between two of Nassau County's colleges (Hofstra University and Nassau Community) has been removed.

The fact that Kate Murray was present is a huge sign as well. She has always stated that she wanted to keep the Islanders on Long Island, but that she could not allow the initial Lighthouse Project to go through due to the previous issues that I mentioned yesterday. A major difference is that Wang was willing to build the Lighthouse Project out of his own pocket. Mangano's proposal will affect the taxes of the people, but as the Islanders release states:

"In return, the Islanders will compensate residents by paying the County a share of each dollar generated at the new sports arena. Similarly, all contracts to operate County-owned facilities in the Hub will require operators to compensate the County. This revenue sharing payment requirement, coupled with sales tax generated from the new facilities, will produce revenue that exceeds the financing required to construct the job generating improvements and establishment of a world-class sports-entertainment destination center. In short, this plan requires private sector operators to compensate the County the costs of financing the plan.

Wang has clearly exhausted all possible options to get the Islanders their new arena and may have finally found his solution. Now it's just up to the fans, the ones he has fought for over the past 11 years.

"Given the local economy and prior failed attempts at redevelopment, County Executive Mangano is putting the question of a new sports arena and minor league ballpark to the people. Citizens will have the opportunity to have their voices heard by deciding the fate of this Economic Development and Job Creation Plan during a County-wide public referendum on August 1, 2011. At the same time, voters will decide the fate of the New York Islanders, Long Island’s only professional sports team, who face the potential of having to leave Nassau County in 2015 when their lease expires should a new sports arena not be built. Should residents approve the measure, construction is estimated to begin in 2012, so that the new sports arena can open no later than 2015.

Basically everyone that has been involved in this ordeal since the start was present, in Wang, Mangano and Murray. The Town, the County and the owner want this deal to get approved. It's time for the fans to say that they do too. The team is on the upswing, with many expecting them to compete for a chance to make the playoffs next year with exciting young talent like Tavares, Grabner, Okposo and Hamonic blossoming into NHL stars. A new arena would make it easier for GM Garth Snow to retain these players as they establish themselves and attract major free agents to push the team along. It will also make fans want to come back and watch their team in support.

But besides the fans aspect, it will also generate thousands of jobs. Although some of them will be temporary, as far as all the construction that would go on for at least three years, Mangano assures there will be "thousands of permanent jobs" as well.

The vote will be held on August 1st. It's do or die time for Islanders fans. There are plenty that lost hope after that 20 game losing streak this past season and felt the need to look away. Some started to come back as they turned the season around as one of the most competitive teams in the Eastern Conference after the All-Star break. But regardless of your opinion on the current state of the team, this has been Long Island's only professional sports team for the past 30 plus years. If this fails, and the Islanders are forced to move, the Island is left with absolutely nothing and the local economy on Nassau County will only get worse.

We've all been waiting for this. We've all been begging for them to find a solution, to find a way to keep our team here.

It's time for Islanders fans to make it happen on August 1st.

-Rob McGowan

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George Prax's picture

Wait, Isles fans are going to vote for a new arena? Who's going to host this event, this guy?