Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said as much in a release today that was circulated before a news conference that announced plans to put a new arena next to the current 39-year-old relic with $350 million in funds from county-backed bonds. Voters will go to the polls Aug 1 and a simple majority is all that would be needed to finally give the Islanders a new pad.
“Without a new arena, we will lose the Islanders, shutter the aging Coliseum and besides losing present jobs, will lose the currently substantial economic benefits including all the existing arena and secondary jobs,” Mangano said. “The construction of a new home for the Islanders and the redevelopment of the Coliseum site will generate thousands of construction and secondary construction jobs plus thousands of permanent jobs.”
The overall bond would be for $400 million with $50 million going to a new minor league ballpark. Former Islanders executive and founder of the Islanders Point Blank blog Chris Botta wrote in a special column for ESPN New York that this referendum should gain approval, unless both the Islanders and area politicians “really whiff on this empty-netter.”
Since we’re talking about the Islanders AND politicians, maybe Isles fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. Botta, however, said the date this referendum will be voted on shouldn’t go unnoticed:
The key here is Aug. 1. Think about it. The vote is not going to be on Election Day, when tens of thousands of Nassau residents would be in position for a knee-jerk rejection of a $400 million expense by a bankrupt county. (The fact is, county taxes are not expected to go up if Wang gets the dough for his building on the Coliseum property. The bond will be covered by eventual revenue from the new facility).
The Aug. 1 date, mandated by Mangano, naturally irks the opposition. Aug. 1 is a Monday in the summer. Think about the people who will be inspired to vote Yes or No, to make the effort to drive to the polling stations to take a stand on one issue on a Monday during a Long Island summer.
But it may not be that easy. Brian Gallof of HockeyIndependent.com reports the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority -- the state-appointed agency that oversees the county's finances -- isn't all too happy with the proposal.
NIFA is deeply concerned about the County Executive’s proposal and its fiscal implications for the County. There was no consultation with NIFA regarding this major proposal announced today. During the control period, greater coordination is warranted.NIFA’s approval is required for all County borrowing, including the $400 million in new debt proposed today, and for all major contracts.
Minus this failed attempt, the Islanders are likely headed out of town once the lease at the coliseum expires in 2015.
The Lighthouse Project, the brainchild of Islanders owner Charles Wang and county leaders, was all but doomed from the start. The proposed multi-billion dollar project included not only a new arena and a minor league park, but also residential neighborhoods and a five-star hotel.
Independent Islanders blog Lighthouse Hockey theorizes why the new proposal could actually succeed.
Well, I mean, it might not. But in short, it has a better shot because the major political players involved are on board, and it's not a $3 billion-plus proposal that scares the daylights out of NIMBY suburbanites. Presumably these now united political forces can marshal their supporters and "friends of influence" to get it through.
Town of Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray -- a major player in blocking the LHP -- is on board with this plan and was a featured speaker at today's presser. (Yes, she was booed.)
Of course, just because Wang, Mangano and Murray are all singing the same tune, there are still the hurdles mentioned above -- county legislature, voter referendum and, presumably, NIFA.
-- A.J .Perez