While there hasn’t been too much going on with the Islanders on-ice product lately (as they’re apparently done with free agency), the intrigue surrounding their arena situation is starting back up again. First we had the privately-financed Lighthouse Project that was called to big and rejected by the Town of Hempstead. Last year we had a public referendum on building an arena that would at least be partially financed by the county, but that too failed. Now, Nassau county executive Edward Mangano has unveiled a new plan to keep the Islanders around past 2015.
As reported by Newsday, starting on Monday July 9th and until July 30th, the county will issue a Request for Qualifications” for a “master developer” to take over (and finance) the building of a new arena and surrounding area. This developer would also be responsible for negotiating everything with the Islanders and the current arena management SMG, or to make other arrangements if the Islanders leave anyway.
Basically they want someone to come in, get between the Town of Hempstead and the Islanders, who have been fighting for years, and make everyone happy, all while shouldering the entire financial burden of the project. While it is nice that Mangano is trying to do something to keep the Islanders here there are still a number of issues to this getting done. Namely that this has been dragging on for ten years without anyone finding a developer that would be willing to finance this project while keeping it within the confines of Hempstead’s zoning. Team owner, Charles Wang has said numerous times that he wouldn’t finance such a project himself, so don’t expect the Islanders to fix this mess. The county has tried to find private developers before, so unless the project is significantly bigger than ones proposed by the county in the past it probably won’t get off the ground.
Since the referendum failed in August the Islanders have gotten very quiet on the arena subject, and have not issued any comments on this plan, or any other plans. After years of fighting to keep the Islanders in the Long Island/New York area, rumblings of the team looking elsewhere are starting to surface. With all that has gone on you can’t blame Wang for that and you can’t blame Islander fans who can’t muster any excitement for this proposal.
The 2015 date is starting to get uncomfortably close. This RFQ has the feeling of a last ditch effort by the county and if it falls short you can’t help but wonder if anything can get done. If, or when, the Islanders leave then the Coliseum closing its doors is sure to happen immediately afterwards basically condemning the area that the Town of Hempstead is bending over backwards to protect. Starting Monday we wait to see if someone will swoop in to save the day and prevent that from happening.