UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The construction of the New York Islanders‘ new home at Belmont Park has resumed and now it appears their former home is set to turn off the lights.
Onexim Sports and Entertainment company, owned by former Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, announced Tuesday it will “shutter the venue indefinitely.”
The company, which operates the arena through a lease with Nassau County, is reportedly seeking investors to take over the operations of the arena and pick up the remaining debt. CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported the company has expressed willingness to turn over the lease in exchange for investors assuming approximately $100 million in loans on the property.
Onexim Sports and Entertainment released a statement on the planned move, saying in part:
“Sadly, the unforeseeable and unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating effect on the operations of the Coliseum and its finances, and delayed the planned development. Notwithstanding the complete lack of Coliseum income since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, to date, the Coliseum had continued to retain all of its full-time employees at full salary, made significant contributions to assist the Coliseum’s part-time event workers, fully reimbursed ticket-holders whose events were cancelled, made restitution to those who booked events cancelled by the COVID pandemic, and continued to maintain the Coliseum in pristine condition.
“While we still believe in the enormous long term economic value of the Coliseum and the development of the surrounding land, NEC recognizes that such value will be best realized by other parties.”
Nassau County stands to lose millions of dollars.
“I was very disappointed to hear this, but I can’t say that I was surprised. Arenas are really taking a hard hit,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.
Curran said she is not giving up on finding new ownership and developing the surrounding land.
“It’s some bad news piled on top of some bad news. We will handle it. We will look at all options, and remain optimistic for our future,” Curran said.
“It is stunning news, but this day was made inevitable when they decided to go ahead with the Belmont project. You can’t have two arenas within 10 to 15 miles of each other,” Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello added.
Just miles away is the Islanders’ future home, which is scheduled to be finished in a year. This winter, the NHL team was to return to Nassau Coliseum for the home portion of the 2020-21 schedule. The Islanders declined comment.
“To have nothing here would be a real shame. It would be a real shocker, too, after all the hard work that was put into making this place, bringing it back to life,” said James Fesselmeyer of the Blue and Orange Army fan club.
The arena, which opened in 1972, was home to the Islanders for over 40 years prior to the team’s move to Brooklyn in 2015. In addition, the venue has been home to live concerts, professional lacrosse, and various other sporting events through the years. However, like many arenas relying on live entertainment, it has been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The head of a major Long Island developers group said the idea that the Nassau Coliseum will permanently close is not an option. Others predict it could be just the first of other venues to shutter.