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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.

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