By Peter Schwartz
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When Nassau Coliseum closed its doors for renovations following the Billy Joel concert on Aug. 4, it created an entertainment void for Long Island residents until the building is expected to re-open in December of 2016.
While the Islanders have relocated to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, there is still a need for a venue for local residents to experience sporting events, concerts, and other family shows.
As it turns out, an annual Coliseum tradition has found a new Long Island home right across the street.
The Harlem Globetrotters are coming to the New York area and they will make their annual Long Island appearance on Dec. 30 with two shows at the Mack Sports Complex on the campus of Hofstra University. The afternoon contest tips off at 2 p.m., and the evening game starts at 7 p.m. Hofstra is rolling out the welcome mat for the legendary basketball team.
“We’re more than happy to take on any events that took place at the Coliseum that now are displaced,” said Jeff Hathaway, Hofstra’s VP and Director of Athletics. “It’s going to be a great place for the fans that are coming to see the Globetrotters to see this great venue and see how close you are to the court and the feel of watching a game in this building.”
The Globetrotters will be the second event to be temporarily moved across the street to Hofstra. Earlier this year the home show was held at the Mack Sports Complex and the university is currently in discussions to host other events that were held at the Coliseum.
From a basketball standpoint, there is huge upside to seeing the Globetrotters at Hofstra. The Coliseum was a large arena seating about 18,000 for basketball, so you had to have good seats to be close to the action. But Hofstra’s arena, which was completed in 2000, seats just 5,023.
“Nassau Coliseum was always good for us,” said Globetrotters player Handles Franklin. “One thing about playing in a college setting is that it’s a lot more intimate and you can interact with the crowd. When we get a chance to play those kinds of venues, it’s actually an added plus for us.”
Hosting the Globetrotters is a significant accomplishment for Hofstra. As the university tries to open its doors to as many people as possible, having these types of events is very important because it brings new people on campus, especially potential students.
In the past, Hofstra has hosted a pair of presidential debates and it is home to a pair of professional sports teams, the NASL champion New York Cosmos and the Major League Lacrosse champion New York Lizards.
And now the school will have even more new faces on campus for a pair of Globetrotters games. And with the Coliseum under renovations, there could be additional events on the way.
“We rent our facilities on a very consistent basis to a lot of off-campus groups, so that’s a major part of what we do here,” Hathaway said. “As events that were held at the Coliseum, if and when they are looking for a place to hold them, certainly we hope they look this way.”
The Globetrotters will be making their way out to Hofstra as part of their 90th anniversary season. The show continues to have traditional elements like the team’s theme music, “Sweet Georgia Brown,” and mascot “Globie,” but this year’s tour will also feature some new twists.
“We have some amazing surprises,” said Franklin, who played college basketball at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. ”Of course we’ll have things that made the Globetrotters timeless, from the confetti to other gags, but also some things that make it current and fresh.”
While basketball fans from the area are being entertained by the Globetrotters, many of them will be getting their first look at the Mack Sports Complex, home to Hofstra’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. From a university standpoint, the hope is that many of those first-time fans will come back and sample a hoops game.
“The arena is a great facility,” Hathaway said. “There’s plenty of parking, it’s very affordable and the seats are very close to the court. There’s not a bad seat in the arena.”
At the end of the day, the Harlem Globetrotters are about the ultimate family sports entertainment experience. They are great ambassadors to the game of basketball and while they do keep score of the games, there’s an even greater bottom line.
“We always play to win,” Franklin said, “but our main thing is bringing families together, putting smiles on faces, and creating those lifelong memories that last forever.”
For 43 years, Globetrotters memories for families on Long Island were created at the Nassau Coliseum. Those will resume in due time when the renovated Coliseum is once again open for business.
But for the time being, the amazing passes and shots, the laughs and gags, and the memories for fans of all ages will be generated across the street at Hofstra.
For tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters at Hofstra’s Mack Sports Complex, click here.
Follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow the Harlem Globetrotters at @Globies and Hofstra Athletics at @HofstraPride