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Charles Wang: If arena referendum doesn’t pass he’s not trying to develop area anymore

Jul 24, 2011, 1:03 PM EDT

Charles Wang Getty Images

For whatever you think about Islanders owner Charles Wang, there’s one thing you cannot question about his leadership of the team. Wang’s dedication to trying to do things to improve the team in the face of a host of problems has been tireless. While it’s easy to pick on the monstrous contracts he’s given out in the past to Alexei Yashin and Rick DiPietro and how the team has done under his watch since buying the Islanders back in 2000, he’s at least had his heart in the right place.

Wang has tried over the years to get a new arena project going on Long Island to build a new facility for the Islanders. Nassau Coliseum is currently the second oldest arena in the league (just behind Madison Square Garden that’s being renovated) and it’s widely described as being the worst current venue in the NHL. Wang tried to fix things by himself with his Lighthouse Project but the Town of Hempstead repeatedly shot down his plans for that.

Now, with a major vote coming up on Long Island for taxpayers to decide whether or not they want their tax money to pay for a new arena and minor league baseball stadium, Wang has made it known that if the referendum doesn’t get passed and the plans are not approved, he’s no longer going to try and develop the Nassau Coliseum area opening things up to a questionable future for the Islanders on Long Island when the lease at the coliseum runs out in 2015.

New York Newsday’s Ted Phillips has the story from the excitable Islanders owner.

Wang said the lease he negotiated with Mangano is “plan A” and there is no plan B.

“We’re asking people to approve the deal we have,” he said. “You can always tweak this, do this, so forth . . . It’s like anything else. You have a whole mix of things where you negotiate a business deal. Some of which you may love and some of which you may not like as much, but you come up and you do the deal then.”

Wang sees himself as better positioned because the clock is ticking on the current lease.

“The biggest asset a team has . . . is an expiring lease,” he said.

Wang wouldn’t say whether he was in talks about relocating if the referendum fails.

It’s a desperate time for the Islanders fans. Getting a new arena is something most every team in the NHL has seen over the last ten years. That doesn’t make it their right to get a new one, but if there’s a team that needs it, it’s the Islanders. Nassau Coliseum is described as “the mausoleum” by many for its dreary lighting and seemingly antiquated set up.

Making things more desperate for the Isles and their fans is the talk of relocation. With sites like Quebec City and Seattle being talked a lot about potential places to move and Kansas City having an arena ready and waiting to be received by any major sports team, the possibilities are there. Of course, moving a team with the kind of history the Isles have would be virtually criminal and it’s something Wang is trying desperately to avoid doing down the road.

That said, hockey’s a business and if Wang cannot get any of his plans to try and improve things for his team he’s got every right to try and find a way to make things better by himself. He’s done that with his Lighthouse Project plans that were foiled and, down the road, he could do that with a possible relocation bid. That would be the ultimate desperation move and that’s what makes the Islanders August 1 vote all the more important to the future of the team in New York.

  1. islandersfan - Jul 24, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Oddball conrtacts aside Mr Wang has been a great team owner and I know he has done all he can for my Islanders. the team is finally moving in the right direction after all the mad mike years(those should have ended MUCH sooner) and I finally believe we are thinking of more than just making teh playoffs (I am Ok with that as a first step though!)

    I don’t live anywhere near Nassau County though and cannot vote in the process but I dearly hope the plan gets approved and the team stays where it belongs so we can have a second “Dynasty” era with Tavares leading the way where Bossy, Potvin, Trottier and Smith once did :)

    • derpdederpdederp - Jul 24, 2011 at 11:00 PM

      “I finally believe we are thinking of more than just making teh playoffs (I am Ok with that as a first step though!)”

      you can think about that all you want but playoffs is not the first step. winning a few games and getting out of the cellar would be a good first step, then you can start to focus on playoffs

  2. quizguy66 - Jul 25, 2011 at 2:27 AM

    I’m an outsider to this situation (specifically a Devils fan who would prefer to see a regional rival like the Isles stay put) and the ultimate impression I have of Wong is that of a guy who really is trying to keep this team where it is. In a way he reminds me of John McMullen (certainly not in picking GMs however) in that the locals haven’t really held up their end of the bargain (trust me NJ didn’t do much that was promised to the Devils after they won the Cup in ’95 and decided to stay). One thing that struck me was was that at that draft, all the teams had a fan (usually a kid) who came up on stage when they announced their draft pick. There were two kids on stage when the Isles picked – one of whom was (presumably) Wong’s son. It made me understand a little why the team hasn’t flown the coop just yet. I hope they do figure out how to keep them on the Island.

    -QG

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