Groundbreaking Ceremony Held For New Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday for the new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, excitement was in the air in Uniondale as the groundbreaking got underway.

“At the Coliseum, there will be something for everyone,” said Brett Yormark, the chief executive officer of the Barclays Center, which is behind the redevelopment.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and developer Bruce Ratner used a sledgehammer to break the ceremonial first hole in the building to mark the beginning of renovations, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.

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Ratner promised, “It is going to look like the pictures, which is beautiful and gorgeous.”

“We took that lemon. We made lemonade,” Mangano added.

When it came to settling on the next chapter for the arena, the lemons came in several varieties. Islanders owner Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project was ruled too big. Public funding for renovations was nixed by voters. The hockey team in frustration then moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The $260 million Nassau project is expected to bring in 2,700 jobs, dining and retail shops as well as entertainment and a bio-technology park, according to Yormark.

“Major concerts will be a key part of the Coliseum, and we plan to bring back the iconic artists that played here in the past,” Yormark said. “Additionally, sports will play a big role with professional and college basketball and hockey, professional boxing, and much more.”

Some Islanders fans who attended the ceremony said while they’re glad to see the Coliseum finally being renovated, they’ll never truly get over losing their team to Barclays Center.

“It’s rough,” one fan told Rivera. “I was a season ticket holder last year, and I went to Brooklyn once. It’s just not the same.”

Pro teams are only expected to play a handful of games in the arena each year. But some Islanders fans see the overhaul as a skate in the right direction, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

“I hope I’m alive to see them come back, I really do,” said George Davies.

“If you re-do this, you never know,” said Matthew Lembo.

What will the venue be named? County officials promised they will never drop the words “Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.” But a deal is in the works with a corporate partner that would add its name to the title.

On Aug. 4, Billy Joel played the final concert at the Coliseum before it closed for renovations.

The 43-year-old arena is expected to reopen in December 2016.

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