Ratner Discusses Plans For Renovated Nassau Coliseum
By Andy Graziano
The history of the Nassau Coliseum runs long and deep for the hard-core Islanders fan from the dynasty teams of the early 1980s. Due to political shenanigans and public mis-information leading to uneducated voting, principal owner Charles Wang was forced to negotiate a long lease to move the team to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.
Months of tense nail-biting ensued as Long Island residents, who were always true blue to the club, wondered what would become of the dilapidated and out-dated building that stood on Hempstead Turnpike. When word got out that Charles Dolan and his MSG empire were getting involved in the bidding to renovate the site, the anxiousness was turned up a couple of hundred thousand notches.
Alas, on Wednesday morning, Nassau county executive Ed Mangano announced that Forest City Ratner Co had won the final bidding by offering 1.4 million more annually in revenue and would be granted the exclusivity of taking control of what will be the modern, gorgeous sports complex and entertainment venue that Long Island deserves.
As the citizens of Long Island who still cared celebrated, we in the media and blogging community began speculating on what we saw the future being not only for the Islanders but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Today, Ratner took the podium at the Coliseum to lay out his preliminary vision. But it would not be without a little controversy.
First, the quotes from Ratner then I will discuss just what is brewing now in the seemingly never-ending saga that is Nassau County…..
"“We will bring over 300 events here,” Ratner said. “Two hundred have already been committed. Whether it’s college basketball, boxing, the Islanders for six games, rock concerts, country music, hip-hop, whatever your taste, we will have it for you.”"
Mr. Ratner then went onto explain that the newly constructed site will also include first class restaurants, a movie theater, theater club (thought they were the same thing actually), bowling alley and ice rink placed on the land around the primary arena.
Magnano, who announced the winning bid on Wednesday, had this to say….
"“This will provide decades of quality entertainment to residents of all ages, while paying tribute to the fond memories many of us have of historic concerts, sports, and family events many of us have held over the years,”"
Also at the press conference were newly appointed Nets head coach Jason Kidd and Islanders forward Matt Martin along with director of communications Jesse Eisenberg. Martin himself came away impressed with what he heard before going off for another action packed night of fun with the lovely Sydney Esiason (don’t judge me, their summer has been all over Twitter and Instagram for any who care to open their eyes).
"“You see what they did with Barclays Center and how amazing that facility is, and it’s going to be exciting for Nassau County,” Martin said. “Obviously we love playing here, but this arena now is a little bit outdated. It’s going to be great to see what they do.”"
Ratner also announced that the Islanders would play in the Coliseum until their originally scheduled end date and not leave, as some including myself have speculated, a year earlier for Brooklyn. Here is where the little bit of controversy starts after everything appeared to be going so well….
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who are the Islanders main AHL affiliate and play at Webster Bank Arena in Connecticut, have a signed lease to stay there until 2021. Today Ratner himself announced that the Tigers would be the ‘main’ tenant at the newly renovated Coliseum and play in the scaled down 13,000 seat arena. This was a claim that was NOT confirmed by the New York Islanders nor the Sound Tigers themselves. Getting ahead of himself maybe? Trying to strong-arm Bridgeport perhaps? Or maybe just a slight case of diarrhea of the mouth, disclosing plans that are either in the works or not yet completed? Nobody really knows for sure at this point.
In the case of discussing whether the Islanders would ever return to Nassau County, Ratner bluntly said “I don’t think so”. With capacity scheduled to be lower than that of the Barcays Center, I would say that statement is much more accurate than the one he made about the Sound Tigers.
At the end of the day, the Islanders are making the right choice in going to Brooklyn. There were just not enough die-hards that cared enough to vote ‘yes’ to the referendum to fund the Wang proposal, mis-informed or not. Barclays Center will provide the Islanders with a potentially new, explosive market to build on their soaring return to relevance on the ice and could easily draw some ‘on the fence’ fans to the blue and orange. The facility itself is first class and will help draw and attract unrestricted free agents, as if skating alongside future captain John Tavares isn’t enough.
For some like myself, speaking in rare selfish tone for only a second, it is a tremendous win-win for me if the Bridgeport story is true. I will be closer to my 35 year rooting interest, the Islanders and also will have the opportunity to take the 90 to 120 minute drive out to the Coliseum to see the Tigers in action at a tremendously reduced out-of-pocket expense. For the people of Long Island who retained their true rooting interest through thick and thin, it provides them with quality hockey minutes away from their residences and provides a reported 2,700 labor jobs in the county.
Stay tuned, I am sure there will more to come on this developing situation in the months ahead. For now, we continue to grind like 4th liners as we look ahead to training camp, now less than 50 days away.