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Islanders arena referendum voted down by Nassau County residents; What next for Charles Wang?

Aug 2, 2011, 12:55 AM EDT

Charles Wang, Ed Mangano, Kate Murray Getty Images

Charles Wang’s dream of having a new arena built in Nassau County on Long Island for his New York Islanders was shot to pieces tonight by the voters he’d hoped would stand up for the team. By a margin of over 13%, Nassau County taxpayers voted against the $400 million proposed arena referendum.

With Wang and Nassau County executive Ed Mangano’s brain child being denied, Wang has to go back to the start once again in his designs to build a new arena on Long Island for his hockey team. This is the second time Wang has had his hopes dashed thanks to politics.

Wang’s Lighthouse Project, which saw him putting up all of his own money to develop the land around Nassau County Coliseum and give his team a new place to play, was repeatedly denied by the Town of Hempstead and vehemently opposed by the town supervisor Kate Murray. This time around, Mangano and Wang’s proposal sought out $400 million in public money to help build a new arena for the Islanders and a minor league baseball stadium on the grounds as well.

Wang has said already that if this referendum was shot down that he wasn’t going to keep trying to do something in Nassau County saying he’d met his wits end in dealing with the local politics. The result of this vote likely did nothing to change his mind on those matters. As Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank notes, the next move is all up to Wang as to what happens next.

Mangano called it a “great day” because the people had their say. Wang said he was “disappointed” and “heartbroken,” but declined to discuss specific next steps. He also said he was really looking forward to a great season from his team this season.

Mangano and Wang could still try to work out a different deal with legislature and see if NIFA will approve it.

Or perhaps finally, for the first time since he bought the team eleven years ago, Wang will publicly dance with other municipalities.

There are possibilities still out there for Wang to work something out to keep the team in the area. There’s talk that the Isles could move to Brooklyn and play in the Barclays Center currently under construction for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. There is concern, however, that the arena’s floor setup isn’t meant for hockey and would potentially cause problems. There’s also the chance that Wang explores building options in Queens. The team wouldn’t quite be on Long Island, but they’d stay in the immediate area.

There’s also the possibility that if nothing is done by the time Wang’s lease with Nassau Coliseum in 2015 he’ll already have plans in place to relocate the team outside of the tri-state area. That would make for an absolute last resort move for Wang and the Islanders.

New York State Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, a major opponent of the referendum, tweeted that he believes Wang and Nassau County will get a deal worked out in the future to privately fund an arena in the county for the Islanders to play at. That leaves us wondering where his support for the Lighthouse Project was when the Town of Hempstead was busy shooing that away.

As for Wang, he posted his comments on the defeat of the referendum on the Islanders website. He’s sad but focused.

I’m heartbroken that this was not passed.  We’re disappointed that the referendum pertaining to the arena was not voted by the people of Nassau County as being a move in the right direction for growth.  I feel that the sound bites ruled the day and not the facts.  Right now, it’s an emotional time and we’re not going to make any comments on any specific next steps.

We’re committed to the Nassau Coliseum until the year 2015 and like we’ve said all along, we will honor our lease.

The result casts a dark cloud on the future of the team on Long Island and while this is still far from over with, this referendum was viewed as the Islanders’ best shot yet of getting a new arena and continuing to call the island home for the foreseeable future. Now it’s up to Wang to figure out how he wants to tackle things next and whether or not he’ll be able to do so without major government interference.

  1. islandersfan - Aug 2, 2011 at 1:26 AM

    Sigh … I wish this had been better news but there is still some time to work this out at least.

  2. goforthanddie - Aug 2, 2011 at 2:41 AM

    If they wouldn’t let him build something w/ his own money, it’s time to look elsewhere.

  3. randysavage4ever - Aug 2, 2011 at 3:11 AM

    thats what u get for rocking with a charles wang…

    gimmie that money u got….

  4. donttouchthedirtypenny - Aug 2, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    Move to Kansas City. They have a new arena and are begging for a team.

  5. florida727 - Aug 2, 2011 at 7:32 AM

    goforthanddie – Aug 2, 2011 at 2:41 AM
    If they wouldn’t let him build something w/ his own money, it’s time to look elsewhere.
    ‘goforth’, re-read the article. Not being a smart@$$. Third paragraph. “This time around, Mangano and Wang’s proposal sought out $400 million in public money to help build a new arena…” PUBLIC MONEY. I say, thank God, the voters there weren’t stupid enough to vote this in. These sports teams owners all want fancy new arenas to help them boost THEIR bottom lines (read: attract fans), but they want to use other people’s money! That’s like IBM coming out and saying, hey, we want to build a new super-computer, but we’re really not interested in re-investing our profits, how about you, the taxpayer, footing the bill… even though the vast majority of you will never use our new super-computer? Most folks living in Nassau County will NEVER go to an Islanders game, yet Wang wants them all to foot the bill? Use your own money, Chuckie boy. Personally, I applaud the voters on this one.

    • caine115 - Aug 2, 2011 at 7:51 AM

      The same article said he was turned down from his Lighthouse Point Project in which he was going to use his own money and which was pushed away from. Not trying to be a smart@ass but go re-read the article. He tried to built it with his money and thats what the comment refereed to. You were to busy bashing it and being completely ironic in calling someone else and idiot and to read when it its you that seems to have missed this and went off on a tangent. So like said. When they wont let you build with your own money time t go.

      3rd paragraph first line
      Wang’s Lighthouse Project, which saw him putting up all of his own money to develop the land around Nassau County Coliseum and give his team a new place to play, was repeatedly denied by the Town of Hempstead

      • florida727 - Aug 2, 2011 at 8:34 AM

        Learn how to use the spell-checker / grammar feature. Your rant might actually make sense, though not likely.

    • goforthanddie - Aug 2, 2011 at 12:58 PM

      I AM being a smartass. I can read just fine, mayhap it’s you who needs a refresher course.

  6. spizzjr - Aug 2, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    As an islander fan for all 19 years of my life I am so fed up with Nassau county I say let the team move they wont lose me as a fan to all isles faithful I say we did our best but barring a miracle nothing is going to happen in Nassau best case I say we wind up in Brooklyn or queens but I’m done!

  7. bwayblues79 - Aug 2, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    This isn’t a simple issue of a rich owner demanding that the government and taxpayers foot the bill for a fancy new arena. In the case of Nassau Coliseum, the building is literally falling apart. The roof leaks. People see rats in the concourse. During a game against the Rangers last season, a piece of the boards was broken near one of the benches. The Coliseum sent out a “repair” guy, who looked like he had one foot in the grave, who used duct tape to fix the boards. The fans are there … with a steadily (if slowly) improving team, and a new arena, people will start returning to the seats …

    Which brings up the other point. Wang has consistently lost money as owner of this team. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars. As we’ve seen around the league, many owners and ownership groups have moved teams or sold them off to other cities for far less in losses. Wang has routinely stated his commitment to staying on LI until 2015. After proposing to build the Lighthouse project (which would have allowed him to recover some of his money lost in Islanders investments via development), and despite pledging his own money, the Town of Hempstead and crooked Kate Murray rejected it based on BS traffic and zoning issues. So, now Wang turned the decision over to the fans and voters. Get hit with a modest tax increase now to get a new arena, new minor league ballpark, and all that comes with it, or don’t vote for it and get hit with an even larger tax increase and job losses the day the Islanders move. Nassau residents cut off their noses to spite their faces.

  8. comeonnowguys - Aug 2, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Time to move to Southern Ontario?

  9. polegojim - Aug 2, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    @bway – some good points!

    What do those voters want to DO with that land anyways? It’s going to be developed at some point. It’s not going to get any more productive and mutually beneficial than the Lighthouse Project concept.

  10. hooockey - Aug 2, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Le retour des Nordiques est autour du coin.

    • hystoracle - Aug 2, 2011 at 10:56 AM

      English please. This site is written in English for English speaking people. If you are trying to say Quebec City could be in the running as a relocation site, then you have a valid point. Just want to understand it. So I can decide to agree or disagree.

      • comeonnowguys - Aug 2, 2011 at 2:26 PM

        I agree. …Still, Google translate will get you where you need to go.

  11. Casey - Aug 2, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    Brooklyn and queens are both on long island… Not suburbs and urban nyc, but geographically on long island

    • thatguymel - Aug 2, 2011 at 12:40 PM

      Nah, man. I’m from Brooklyn and Brooklyn folks don’t identify with Long Island. Plus Brooklyn is Rangers’ territory. If you think Rangers fans fill up the Coliseum during Rangers-Islanders games, it’s gonna be damn near 80-20 Rangers fans at Barclays Center.

      I hope the Islanders stay on Long Island. But if they don’t, they shouldn’t look to Brooklyn.

  12. t16rich - Aug 2, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Too bad. I wanted to see the Islanders fill only 5,000 fans into a brand new builiding. I love this franchise but truth be told the fan support in recent years dosnt warrant any sort of large investmant from ownership. So Islander fans, be happy with what Wang is doing. Because your team could be alot worse shape from onice to off ice. And again to Islanders fans. If you want a new buliding, start showing up at the old one. Help the team make money. You have a young talented team withj potential to be contenders down the road. Get out and support!!!! The 80’s are over they need you more than ever fans!!!

  13. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 2, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    Idk where you move them but they need to be moved. The people have spoken. Put the team in an area where they will be truly appreciated. It stinks to see that the die hard Islanders’ fans are going to suffer because of the potential move. One can see this as an opportunity to move a franchise to NHL-starved city.

  14. blitzthepig - Aug 2, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    Uniondale where the coliseum is located is a vast wasteland(dump). Charles Wang tried 2 different times over a 10 year period to get something done. First with a democrat county exec with his own money and then with a republican county exec with public money. If that doesn’t show just how dysfunctional Nassau County is then I don’t know what does. The politics in the county are vile as everyone wants to get a piece of their own. Kate Murray should be voted out of office as she is the one who shot down the Lighthouse Project. Forget the Islanders, this was about and has always been about making Nassau county viable for business. Ask the Canon reps about how the politicians in Nassau are a joke. No one wants to work with them. Uniondale is a dump, will remain a dump and the citizens there have Ms Murray to thank.

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