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

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.

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One Comment

  1. Dominick Mezzapesa says:

    My new article: WFAN Islander Blogger Nick Colombo dreadfully bad

  2. Billy says:

    The Islanders ended their season with 3 consecutive sell-outs during a non-playoff year. Attendance is on the rise in the oldest building in the league. The team is young and getting better. A minor league baseball park is also included in the deal and taxes will not be raised because of this deal.

  3. Scottie G. says:

    Nassau residents are INSANE if they approve this. This team is last in attendance and continues to lose money. Thus, the taxpayers will be in jeopardy of not getting paid back.

    This is NOT the time for taxpayers to take on this risk. If Wang wants to build a building to try to make money, let him. If he can make money in Long Island with a new building, it would be built already.

    Teachers are getting laid off. People are losing their jobs. Put the money to good use and improve schools.

  4. Dan Lincoln says:

    And a couple more things: with the departure of high income people such as NHL executives and players, Nassau’s tax base would take a substatial hit.

    Further, the increasing populaity of widescreen TVs and HD means that the hoary complaint of not being able to see the puck on YV will be greatly undermined. Whe something is popular on TV, more people want to see it live.

  5. Dan Lincoln says:

    One more thing: I haven’t heard anything about the naming rights to the new arena. I think that “Allstate Coliseum” has a nice ring to it, and if it would defray something like $50 Million from the cost of the project, so much the better

  6. Dan Lincoln says:

    The first two ingredients in a recipe for urban blight are an abandonned, decrepit arena and a vacant lot. You might as well start bussing in the prostitutes and the drug dealers if you are going to vote “no”!

    What about all the jobs that will be lost if the Isles leave? Not just at the Coliseum, but the sports bars, restaurants, hotels, etc.

    This is also the best time to borrow money, with relatively low interest rates. In bad economic times, it is precisely the right time to invest.

    And read some of the hockey press out there: the Islanders are poised to take big steps toward competitiveness, with a core of promising players that will be around for years to come: Calder trophy nominee Michael Grabner, John Tavares (leading scorer for Canada at the world Championships), Okie, Blake Comeau, Travis Hamonic (who had a very impressive debut in 2010-2011 and is still eligible for rookie status in 2011-2012), and several others. Last year’s 5th overall pick, Nino Niederreitter, will almost certainly make the big club, and in the near future we can look forward to our 5th overall pick this June (most likely Dougie Hamilton, I think) and Calvin de Haan and maybe even one or both of the Kirills. Competitiveness on the ice can only mean more media buzz and economic activity at the Coliseum.

    Not only the Isles, but the NHL as a whole is ready to increase in popularity: NBC-Universal just signed a 10-year deal with the NHL and are almost assuredly going to try to turn Versus into their own version of ESPN, with the same kind of synergy between NBC and Versus that ABC and ESPN currently enjoy.(might I suggest that they change the name of “Versus” to “Universal Sports” ) And NHL hockey will be the bedrock of any such strategy for the forseeable future.

    No community can grow without investment and this is the best investment availabe, it is one that centers on an already existing brand name with tremendous recognition: The New York Islanders. I actually haven’t heard any counter-proposals from the “No” side, and doing nothing as I said at the top, is community suicide

  7. Andrew G. says:

    Colombo…..Stop being such a “Debbie Downer” this will get done with a resounding YES!!! If everything goes completely wrong, it might cost tax payers less than $4.00 a month. Worry about property tax, not a beautiful new Arena.

  8. Satan Fan says:

    Nick- what is your point and what is your agenda in writing this short-sighted, insightless, reactionary and overall ignorant and uninformative article? Is this the best you can do with the stage you are given? Give me a break. If you are an Islanders hater just keep this nonsense to yourself and let the rest of us benefit from this project. If we all get taken for a ride you can call us suckers down the road, but for everyone’s sake lay off the nitwit articles that add nothing to this conversation. If you want to seriously debate the fairness and necessity of this project and the overall fate of Long Island then do it but put some thought into it first.

  9. Patrick says:

    First and foremost, you are a colossal idiot. I say again, you are a colossal idiot. Did you happen to notics that the Islanders are the only major tri-state professional athletic team that does not have either a brand new field/arena or just doesn’t need one (Rags). Do you think the people of Newark felt that a hockey rink would be better for the city than pumping that money into local schools and infrastructure? What about the people in Queens or the Bronx. Get real. While sports-based economics is probably not the best way to go, it is the only realistic option on LI at this point. Morons like you would cut off your nose to spite your face. The Islanders are an easy target to stop the madness you say. But did you say the same thing about the Yankees or Mets getting new stadiums? Stop spreading negative and incorrect information about this project. It is not based on increasing taxes to pay for the construction. All you other idiots that keep telling Wang to fund this himself, guess what, he tried that for years and Murray shot him down every step of the way. Long Islanders already look like fools to the rest of the country for causing this much trouble in keeping a pro hockey team in town. Don’t give them even more reason by taking some moral high ground on this latest plan and acting like the Islanders leaving in 2015 is a good thing. If you hate this plan so much then don’t go to the friggin’ games, the rest of us will.

    1. Nick Colombo says:

      The Yankees and Mets paid for their own stadiums, entirely with their own money and loans. So how does this compare?

  10. Joe says:

    Stop Whining and get this deal done!

  11. Mike says:

    I think Nick Columbo is the Town of Hempstead Supervisor’s best friend. Just another on her payroll. Why doesn’t he report on the way Kate Murray changed the zoning rules on the coliseum land with a snap of her fingers, but when it comes to the Isles….it will take more than 15 years to get a new arena. I think you can find his name right next to the environmental impact lawyer. Nassau County and New York State would loose revenue of all kinds if the Isles loose. You want to see a fiscal nightmare, then let them leave. If that happens, I will never step foot on the Coliseum land. It will probably be a vacant lot anyway. It’s disgusting how the Islanders get treated; both on the ice and by the local government. The Coliseum is 40 years old; they deserve a new arena. With the kids that they have and the up and coming prospects; they will be great for many years and probably bring a Stanley Cup back to Long Island VERY SOON. Garth is sticking to the rebuilding strategy and if not for that terrible 1-17 stretch, the would of been in the playoffs. Remember, SMG use to take a major portion of the profits before they were finally kicked out.

  12. Suffolks Pride says:

    Hey Columbo, think of THIS….how would it affect the county if the Islanders did indeed leave? What would the county with this eyesore then? Tear it down? Build a parking lot? The TOH shot down Wang’s Lighthouse when he was going to foot the entire bill. Now the county, Town, and Wang are in agreement but the voters want to vote it down cuz it “MAY” raise their taxes? If that is the case…Wang will have no choice but to leave Nassau forever, and get something built in Suffolk or Queens (You know….areas where things actually GET DONE!) Nassau is so full of people who really have no idea what they are talking about. They are full of corrupt politicans. Maybe it would beneficial for Wang if the county actually did vote it down. Nassau can then turn the entire property into a parking lot. That way they do not have to worry about traffic, and not have to worry about their precious taxes. All while watching Suffolk or Queens get rich off a venture they voted down. Good luck with your debt Nassau residents! You are gonna be there for a LONG time cuz you are all cowards! And welcome to Suffolk Mr. Wang! We will welcome you with open arms!

  13. jcap17 says:

    The opposition to this proposal is misguided in that the Democrats, most of whom are actually in favor of a new arena, are currently upset — not because this is a bad proposal, but because it’s not THEIR proposal. And the problem with that is they are playing politics and potentially looking to railroad a plan that, as is evidenced by countless comments here, good for Long Island because they failed to get the job done from 2003 on and are now no longer in a position to get THEIR plan passed.

    How about a little bipartisan unity for once? Do you trust a Republican who says the proposal will have no impact on your taxes or a Democrat who says nothing about your taxes? I’ll take the former every time because it’s already written in stone that if this was a Democrat-backed proposal it would be LOADED with new or increased taxes.

    Do the right thing here: research this for yourself. If you like the idea of losing the only professional sports team you have, with absolutely no chance of ever getting another one, by all means vote no. But if you have an eye on the future and know what kind of economic transformation a project like this will do for what is — and has been for decades — an eyesore in the heart of your county, you must vote yes. I don’t care if you know the difference between a blue line and a clothesline.

    Take the politics out of this and use your heads.

  14. brian says:

    I think the arena should be built. It will be a boost to Long Island. Though all may not be lost if this fails because the Islanders can move into the Brooklyn arena being built by the Nets

    1. Dominick Mezzapesa says:

      It wont move to Brooklyn because that arena was not designed for hockey. Unlike the Garden where within hours the arena can be changed from a basketball arena to a hockey rink the barclay’s center is not able to accomplish this.

  15. James L says:

    This is so much more about Nassau County and LI than the Isles. A state of the art arena for Games, Concerts, Comedy, Plays, Conventions and Expos is needed. Why have people spend their dollars in NYC and NJ for these things when they can do it right here in Nasau? Not to mention secondary revenue to hotels and restaurants from visitors for things like NCAA tourney games. This makes so much sense for the future of LI.

  16. Mike says:

    Wow are you a brainless idiot. You can’t create jobs and start bringing in revenue if you don’t build. Long Island stopped building a long time ago, and for this reason, it is turning into a complete disgusting ghetto. I am a Nassau County resident with no affiliation to the Islanders and I will be voting Yes. Something has to get done on that site, and I am sick and tired of hearing the proposals. This is our best chance. This WILL pass, and you WILL look like a moron.

  17. kevin says:

    Hey Colombo. Read your comments. Looks like your public audience, of potential supporters and opposition, all seem to be supporters. It could mean 1 of 2 things:

    1) There are MUCH more supporters than opposition for the project.
    2) There is not much separation in quantity for each, but the supporters seem to be much more motivated to their cause.

    Looks like your article is blatantly wrong either way.

  18. Carey says:

    Everything I want to say has been said in the comments above. But the whole premise of your article is regarding the temporary jobs. That’s fine. Most likely just the Coliseum would produce a similar number of jobs as there are now, let alone the proposed baseball stadium and the like. The point you are missing, however, is the amount of jobs LOST if the Coliseum goes by the wayside – because make no mistake, that will happen in 2015 regardless. That’s all the Islanders staff, the maintenance crew, the ice freezers, the NHL games-day crew, the zamboni drivers, the ushers, etc. Local businesses will close because of inactivity. The Marriott next door will be way more barren.

    And as far as the tax issue goes, you’re right, it may never get fully paid. But it might. And that hope is a hell of a lot better idea than my taxes skyrocketing twice – once for the demolition of the Coliseum and once for the construction of another stupid strip mall or the like.

    Let Long Island have its character. It deserves its character.

  19. OJ says:

    What happens to all the people who lose their jobs when the Coliseum is demolished with no replacement? What happens when taxes are increased to replace the revenue lost from the Coliseum? People would rather spend money later on nothing than a manageable amount now to ensure a better future.

  20. WILL says:


  21. Pete says:

    This is why journalists make bad economists!

    Mr. Colombo, communities NEED businesses…end of story! Many years ago I worked at the Uniondale Marriott and that business made MILLIONS off the Islanders. In-turn, they were able to hire me, and many others. Businesses in the area also have benefitted from this iconic sports franchise. Income taxes, paid by the players, have also benefitted the community in the TENS OF MILLIONS!

    Today, the Coliseum is a dump, I love it – but it is a dump! No new facilitiy on the Island means the Islanders will leave and the economy will further suffer. In the end, another city will pony up the money and their community will be revitalized.

    Seattle politicians recently said NO to helping finance a new facility for the Supersonics. As a results, the City of Seattle has lost an economic engine and a source of excitement and vitality; conversely, Oklahoma City, the city which lured the franchise away, is generating millions while making their city an attractive destination for people looking to relocate.

    I was forced off the Island, not by bonding issues but by school taxes. If you want to save the Island’s economy stop overpaying teachers and adninistrators. If you do, I promise I will move back home and again support the Community’s Franchise.

  22. HockeyRanter says:

    “…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.”

    There are equally motivated folks in support of this project.

  23. NYIFC says:

    So where is the article that Dolan should give back his permanent 1981 Msg tax exemption or the Yankees, Mets, Giants x2, Jets, Red Bulls and Net should have moved or folded because the public should never have been forced to pay construction bonds.

    Where was the article those teams should leave.

  24. Scott says:

    What’s funny is that a plan was submitted to build a venue including hotels, apartments, condos, restaurants, a mall, upgrade the arena, etc… which would have brought tens of thousands of jobs and billions in revenue, all financed privately, but that was shot down too.

    I think that if Nassau, Hempstead, the State, and everyone else wants prime real estate to sit vacant and useless while jobs and people split town, then they are morons.

  25. The Rent is too damn high says:

    I agree with Colombo. If the Islander’s and Wang want a new arena I say let them finance it and build it. Nassau County will still get their tax revenue. Better yet if the Islander fans are so concerned with keeping the team on Long Island float a bond issue and have the fans and all concerned resident’s of LI purchase all the bonds. Either way the handout’s to Sport Teams, Unions (i.e. Teacher’s, Police Officer’s etc) needs to end. Government has already spent it’s way into too deep a hole. This needs to END NOW!

    1. Daniel Friedman says:

      You moron. Wang and the Isles already tried that approach. But everyone started whining about it, and so the Town of Hempstead did not approve.

      1. Realist says:


        Up yours, @sswipe. This debacle should be funded privately, not by non-existent “public funding”.

  26. P13 says:

    The jobs that will “go away” are construction jobs. Hopefully, when this job is complete in 2015, the economy will have picked up, more things will be getting built, and the workers can move seamlessly to another project. Right now, these people have no jobs. You’ve probably noticed that nothing is getting built. A three-year project like this will be a lifeline and a godsend to these workers, creating not just jobs, but tax revenue. Plus, the workers will need to eat, etc., creating revenue for the surrounding area while the construction is going on.

    As far as the county being better off if nothing gets down…what about tax revenues generated by all the events at the arena? Ticket sales, parking, concessions, etc., not just from hockey games, but concerts, other types of shows, heck, wrestling and monster trucks. What about tax revenues from the surrounding businesses that reap the benefits of people coming to the area for all of these events? The arena is not a project in a vacuum. If it goes, so does that revenue. What does that get replaced by?

    With respect to the financing, your whole premise assumes an arena that already has a primary tenant will generate no revenue. Other cities build arenas hoping to attract a primary tenant to reap the benefits that come with having an arena. Here, the hard part is already done. I’m not entirely sure regarding this next point, but I believe the deal is for revenue sharing, not profit sharing. If the Islanders lose money in a given year, the county still gets its percentage of revenue from parking, concessions, etc. SMG seemed to do pretty well collecting revenue from Coliseum events over the years. The county will get money.

    Lost in most of these articles is that the taxpayers are not laying out the money upfront and then hoping to be paid back. This will be a bond…if I understand it correctly, and it’s possible I do not, investors lay the money out up front, and the county will be responsible for paying them back with interest…I believe over 30 years. That’s what the revenue sharing pays.

    I also disagree about the votes. The unions will get people to vote yes. The Islanders fans will vote yes. The people who complain about taxes will do what they always do: complain and not show up to the voting booth to do anything about it.

  27. misterpink says:

    If nothing is built there the taxpayers will be left with an even bigger increase to make up for the lost tax revenues from the existing coliseum, as well as all the surrounding businesses that will surely close if that becomes a concrete wasteland in 5 years.

    What an obtuse article.

    Build it and likely the bond is payed off through revenue sharing – and possibly even have resident taxes lowered due to the tax revenue from the new facilities and surrounding area revitalization – OR – guarantee yourself higher taxes and a flint-style wasteland in the heart of Nassau County. Hrmm which one should I choose?

  28. peter says:

    Even as a rangers fan, i would like the islanders to stay. I enjoy the rivalry, but the team should foot the bill. As a native New jerseyian, I understand why people are moving out of LI and NJ. Taxes are too high and its getting too crowded. Sports are a nice to have, but more important things come first.

  29. Alan Smithee says:

    How much tax revenue do the Coliseum and its surrounding business generate for Nassau County? Who’s going to make up that shortfall if the Coliseum loses 42+ guaranteed events per year without an NHL team as a primary tenant?

    No doubt that somewhere down the line, tax payers will end up paying for Mangano’s gamble. But I’d rather have my tax money go towards something rather than nothing.

  30. Dominick Mezzapesa says:

    My problem is the corruption in Nassau county. I can’t believe for one moment that this new coliseum will be built for the $350 million dollar budget they requested.

    So there are just too many questions such as.
    Why is the residents paying for this project, When last year wang was going to build that 3 billion dollar project without one penny from the public?

    Why does Nassau county need a minor league team, when we can just support the Long island Ducks?

    Why isn’t Wang backing this loan, so if it does not get paid in the 30 years time frame,, he has to pay for it?

    Where is this revenue sharing money being held. The one thing politicians love to do is take money from one area and use it for some other project. Just look at Social Security. That money is supposed to be taken out of workers paychecks and used to pay off SS recipients, but we all know that money is being used to build roads, bridges and support places like planned parenthood.

    Why can’t Wang just go to a bank and secure a 30 year loan? The Islanders and the coliseum can be used for collateral, because they are worth a lot more than 350 million dollars?

    How much is the Unions getting paid? Are they getting a sweetheart deal, or will these jobs be open to bidding, by non-union companies?

    1. Daniel Friedman says:

      The reason Wang’s not paying for it, is because Kate Murray and the Town of Hempstead shot down the existing plan.

  31. Joseph says:

    If Nassau County loses this profesionnal sports team – you can be positive that Long Island will *never* holst another professional sports team ever again. Now, I ask you – is that good fo Long Island? As long as its residents don’t see the forest and focus on the tree, then you’re probably right – they will vote against it. When the Town of Hempstead becomes nothing more than a passageway to the Hamptons in the few years after the Islanders leave, you tell me if it was a good thing for Nassau County and Long Island.

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