The New York Islanders were born on November 8, 1971, when the NHL awarded Long Island its first major league professional sports franchise. On Monday, August 1st, the Isles will face a day that will determine whether or not that franchise will be able to survive on Long Island or if it leaves Nassau County for good.
The special election for the citizens of Nassau County will determine not only the future of the hockey team, but the future character of Uniondale, Nassau County and Long Island itself.
To vote yes is about a lot more than keeping Long Island’s only major league sports team here on Long Island. It is about creating jobs and infrastructure and maintaining a destination hub where Long Islanders can enjoy a concert or family entertainment like the circus or Disney on Ice.
One thing should be absolutely clear to the voters of Nassau County. The choice is not between a new Nassau Coliseum and the present building. Through years of neglect by the County government and SMG, the company that ran the facility, the building is outdated and in a bad state of disrepair. The Islanders cannot even break even playing at the building and it can no longer attract top musical acts consistently because of the poor condition of the facilities.
Charles Wang has said the Islanders will honor their lease, which expires after the 2014-2015 NHL season, but that the Islanders will not play there beyond that. Without the Isles, who are the main tenant, the Coliseum will quickly close altogether. The choice for the voters of Nassau County is therefore not between the present Coliseum and the new one, but between the new Coliseum and nothing, no arena at all.
That means that any time Long Islanders want to see a top musical act, take their children or grandchildren to the circus or see a professional sports game, they will have to go to the new facilities in Brooklyn, the revised Madison Square Garden in Manhattan or “The Rock” in Newark, New Jersey.
According to the opponents of the present plan, it will cost each household in Nassau County $58 per year if the new building is financed as planned via bonds. If anybody takes one trip a year to Brooklyn, Manhattan or Newark for one show or event at any of those facilities, the cost in parking, gas, train tickets, event tickets, transportation and food will far exceed the $58 maximum that opponents of this plan say it will cost. Build a new Coliseum and that money and the corresponding tax revenues stay in Nassau County. Otherwise, it goes elsewhere. Everybody who presently works at the Coliseum would also lose their jobs.
The businesses around the Coliseum would also be adversely affected if the arena were to go dark. Restaurants, bars, gas stations, delis and many other small businesses in the area would be forced to close down. More jobs would be lost and more Long Islanders would be put out of work. If the new arena is approved, construction jobs would be created, the jobs of those who work at the Coliseum would be saved and because the new facility will be larger and presumably busier, more jobs will be created at the new arena itself.
Islanders’ owner Charles Wang lives on Long Island and cares about the community. He has already lost more than $200 million since buying the team and cannot continue to operate the team at the present Nassau Coliseum. Originally he offered to pay for the cost of construction a new Coliseum as part of The Lighthouse Project. The Democratic County Executive and his political allies backed the plan but the Republican Town Supervisor blocked it. Now, the new plan has the backing of the new Republican County Executive but many elected Democrats are opposing it mostly because the opposing party’s supporting it. As with many problems in Nassau County, politicians lose sight of the greater good and play self-defeating games which end up hurting everybody.
The bottom line is that the residents of Nassau County are being asked to make an INVESTMENT in the new Coliseum. Having the building there creates new jobs, keeps sports teams in the area and gives Long Island’s sagging economy a much-needed jolt. It gives Long Islanders a place to go to see top quality entertainment and maintains the Island as a major league town. The loss of the Coliseum would hurt more than just hockey fans. It would make Long Island a less desirable place to live.
Vote yes on August 1st.