Islanders

Colombo: Why The Islanders Arena Won’t Be Built… And Probably Shouldn’t Be

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New York Islanders owner Charles Wang gives a thumbs-up while listening to chants of "build it now" during a news conference at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Officials on New York's Long Island will ask voters this summer to approve a $400 million plan to build a new hockey arena next to the current home of the New York Islanders. (credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang gives a thumbs-up while listening to chants of “build it now” during a news conference at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Officials on New York’s Long Island will ask voters this summer to approve a $400 million plan to build a new hockey arena next to the current home of the New York Islanders. (credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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By Nick Colombo
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In a perfect world – I’d want the Islanders to stay on Long Island, Charles Wang to make money, tons of folks on Long Island to get jobs, and nobody have their taxes go up. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.

I’m going to go on record right now and say it – this thing is never getting built– because of the referendum vote. No matter how many loyal fans come out to vote, they can’t outnumber the throngs of highly motivated people who don’t want a financially troubled county to take on more debt to build a facility for a private company. Like it or not, this is the way of the world. In a special election when people have no other reason to vote, only the highly motivated folks are going to show up. Right now, the highly motivated folks are all those who fear higher taxes and are opposed to increased government debt.

So if we go with the assumption that the new Islanders arena won’t be built, the question is if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

For Islanders fans – it would undoubtedly be bad. It would mean the end of the team on Long Island.

However, for people who live on Long Island in general – it’s a good thing.

I’ve written many times that I believe it’s good for local governments to spend money on large projects like this. That’s because I personally believe that the debt will inevitably be paid off by the project and that the community overall benefits greatly from these large projects. So why don’t I support this? I’m not convinced it’s going to really benefit the community.

Yes, building this facility will create some jobs. It will create some to actually build it and I’m sure it will add some more when the facility is finished. But after the construction cranes and cement pourers have gone away, will it really create that many jobs? How many more people will it take to run the new facility as opposed to the current one? I’m guessing not that many.

It’s also a great idea to have the revenue from the facility pay off the 400 million dollar bond. But that’s not exactly a guarantee now is it. Yes, a new facility will add a few more concerts so there’s some revenue right there. However, it will also cost more to maintain so that’s a loss as well. The fact is, unless the Islanders begin to attract a lot more people or the new facility attracts a lot more concerts, paying this debt off may not be so easy. And if the new building can’t cover its current bills as well as its debt, who gets left with the bill? – the tax payers.

So it’s probably a good thing that this facility will never be built. Because in an economic climate where the county has serious financial struggles, school districts around the country can barely keep their teachers employed, and in a time where people struggle to deal with high taxes – taking out a 400 million dollar loan to build a facility for a private entity doesn’t seem appropriate.

Questions or comments? Email me at ncolombo@wfan.com

Do you agree with Colombo? Let him know in the comments below…

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