May 11, 2011, 5:19 PM EDT
Yesterday we told you about how the Islanders had a major announcement to make about plans surrounding a possible new arena for the team on Long Island.
Today during an elaborate press conference at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Hempstead, all the Islanders and local dignitaries gathered to announce that Nassau County has set an August 1 date for a referendum on whether or not to approve $400 million in bonds to help build a new arena on the site. $350 million of that will go to build a new arena while the other $50 million will go towards building a minor league baseball park.
Islanders owner Charles Wang, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, and Town of Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray were on hand for the announcement and for these parties to come together on an agreement is a miracle unto itself.
In the past, Wang has pressed Murray and the Hempstead government to press ahead with his plan to build the Lighthouse Project that was planned to build a new arena as well as develop the grounds where the Nassau Coliseum is now into a major attraction for the area with hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas to support the new arena. Murray fought hard against Wang over his ideas and they were ultimately put by the wayside in favor of this new deal.
Former Islanders PR man turned Islanders exiled blogger Chris Botta gave his thoughts on this new deal and says that if this isn’t approved, the Islanders could be on their way out of town when the Isles lease at Nassau Coliseum runs out in 2015. One thing working in their favor is the date for the vote.
The key here is Aug. 1. Think about it. The vote is not going to be on Election Day, when tens of thousands of Nassau residents would be in position for a knee-jerk rejection of a $400 million expense by a bankrupt county. (The fact is, county taxes are not expected to go up if Wang gets the dough for his building on the Coliseum property. The bond will be covered by eventual revenue from the new facility).
The Aug. 1 date, mandated by Mangano, naturally irks the opposition. Aug. 1 is a Monday in the summer. Think about the people who will be inspired to vote Yes or No, to make the effort to drive to the polling stations to take a stand on one issue on a Monday during a Long Island summer.
Islanders fans have been the key to getting things going on this all along and if you think they’re not going to show up at the polls to approve the funds needed to replace the NHL’s oldest and most run down building, you’ve been hitting the wineries in The Hamptons a bit too hard.
If the voters do approve the referendum, then it’s a huge win for the Islanders because they’ll finally have a facility worthy of the modern age to help market the team not just to fans but to prospective players as well. If the voters say no, however, Charles Wang would likely be exhausted dealing with things in Long Island and then look to do something drastic either by selling the team or start fishing around for a new city with less headaches to deal with to take the Islanders.
We’ll see how the politics of things work out over the summer, but the key here is that this doesn’t turn into a play on public money as the bonds taken out to build the facilities will be paid off with the revenues made at them. It’s a smart way to do things and it takes the pressure off the taxpayers who may not want anything to do with the project. If you’re looking to compare it to what’s gone on in Glendale with the Coyotes, that difference is a marked one.
While the Isles will be busy this summer looking to improve the team on the ice, it’s up to the voters to see if they want to keep them around for an extended stay.
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