UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — One day before the Nassau County Legislature debates the future of the Coliseum site CBS 2 has learned several developers are drafting proposals that imagine Long Island’s future without the Islanders.
Hockey fans in Nassau don’t like the idea of their island without the Islanders, which at one time was the greatest U.S.-based franchise in the National Hockey League and has been a source of suburban pride since 1972.
“Moving them is a big mistake,” one Long Islander told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
“I would be very upset if they left. I hope they don’t,” another added.
But some heavy hitter developers say get used to the idea. In fact, they are developing Plan B — Long Island’s future without the franchise that has won four Stanley Cup championships during its up-and-down existence.
“Make the assumption they are leaving. Their lease is up in two years,” developer Vince Polimeni said.
Polimeni is one of four developers who’ve formed a group to bid together to develop the “Hub,” the 77 acres around the Coliseum. And their plans do not depend upon the Islanders or even an arena.
“We will then pursue other teams that are out there that would maybe want to relocate to the Island, because it’s a great spot. Or not. We can just do the development that doesn’t involve the Coliseum,” Polimeni said.
However, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said don’t count the Islanders out.
“I have not given up on the Islanders. I think there is an important quality of life that comes with having a coliseum here in Nassau County,” Mangano said.
But Mangano admits time is running out. Islanders owner Charles Wang has twice lost bids to rebuild the aging Coliseum. First when officials balked at the size of his Lighthouse Project plan and then when taxpayers said no to publicly funding a new Coliseum. He’s since threatened to move the team when its lease with the Coliseum runs out following the 2014-15 season.
The county executive’s desire to keep the Islanders in the county has bipartisan support. Jay Jacobs, the state and county Democratic chairman, told Gusoff that any development that counts the Islanders out is unacceptable.
The developers Gusoff spoke to said they aren’t assuming the Islanders will leave but are planning around it.
Meanwhile, the Islanders’ owner hasn’t responded to the developers or spoken publicly since he lost the referendum, but sources said it’s a safe bet he’s shopping the team. It is widely believed cities like Quebec and Seattle are currently in the market for a club.
In addition, the Islanders recently announced they will be playing a preseason game next October at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It is believed the borough really wants to lure the franchise to Brooklyn full-time, but there are many roadblocks to that becoming reality, including the seating capacity for hockey at Barclays and a guaranteed revenue stream that would help Wang recoup much of the estimated $250 million he’s lost since taking over part- and then eventually full-ownership of the team back at the turn of the century.
Mangano is also taking proposals for a privately funded convention and expo center for the Nassau property.
What do you think will eventually happen with the Islanders? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …