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Islanders set August 1st date for referendum to build new arena

May 11, 2011, 5:19 PM EDT

Islanders and Nassau County Agree on New Arena Plan Getty Images

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.

  1. kingjoe1 - May 11, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    If the Island doesnt want them Allentown PA does. This is hockey hotbed and would be a much safer alternative from driving 50 miles to the city. Allentown Progress would be a fitting name and enhance the twin cities of Allentown/Bethlehems reputation. Mr Wang, bring them on down.

    • t9tookey - May 11, 2011 at 8:56 PM

      Do you think the Flyers would let an NHL team move that close? Snider and Comcast would never let that happen. The Flyers have the Allentown market pegged to bring the Phantoms back from Adirondack once an arena is built.

      I gotta think the AHL is salivating with Hershey, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Allentown, all with nice new buildings, being close enough for fans to make the trip. Nice to help boost the attendance numbers the AHL likes to brag about.

      Meanwhile Winnipeg, Quebec City, Kansas City and Hamilton would all be posied with owner-favorable deals to jump on the Isles (or Coyotes or Thrashers). I think the Isles should stay in New York, there is a tradition there (wouldn’t have a problem if the Coyotes or Thrashers moved though).

  2. bcjim - May 11, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    1. “The wineries” are on the North Fork, not the in the Hamptons.Please don’t associate us with those phony, helicopter riding, egomaniacs.

    2. That shell game with the revenue makes no sense to me. Its still tax $$ that could in principle be used for something else. It is also tax $$ from money that the public wont spend on something that doesnt need to be siphoned off to pay for an arena.

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