An ambitious new plan for the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum is in the works, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said Thursday. He hopes it may keep the New York Islanders playing professional hockey in Uniondale but time is running out.
Mangano admits “the clock is ticking” on team owner Charles Wang’s deadline to give the Islanders a new venue or otherwise he’d take the team elsewhere once their lease is up in 2015.
At an informal meeting with reporters at his Mineola office, Mangano said he will announce a new plan soon that would “jumpstart” redevelopment of the arena and the surrounding area while helping the county “retain the Islanders.” He would not release any details but promised it would be “another approach” to redeveloping the area that would meet his criteria that the solution be “privately financed.”
The Republican county executive’s plans to rebuild the coliseum using $400 million in taxpayer funds was blocked by voters who nixed the idea in an August referendum. Since then, he’s been courting private developers for their ideas, such as using the 70 acres of parking surrounding the coliseum to build a mixed-use development of retail, residential and academic facilities.
According to Mangano, the coliseum annually generates roughly $200 million in economic activity now. He would not speculate on whether the proposal he’s working on behind the scenes would satisfy Wang. “Ask him,” he told the assembled reporters.
But Mangano did say that he feels strongly that the site must remain “a sports-entertainment destination” and that the coliseum needs a sports team to be an anchor tenant there.
He said he’d hoped that ambitious plans for the area would have gotten a nod from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative, which awarded Long Island’s package of projects $101.6 million in December. But neither the arena nor various plans for the surrounding are known as the Nassau Hub didn’t make the cut, in part, state sources have told the Press, because the county’s plans were in the early stages compared to the other projects that were much further along and won funding.
Mangano said that he’d recently met with Long Island Association President Kevin Law and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, who co-chair the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, to discuss how the Hub might get a bigger boost from his Accelerate Nassau Now initiative.
He said he reacted favorably to Cuomo’s recent announcement in his State of the State address that New York would seek to turn the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens into a new, $4 billion largest-in-the-nation convention center as well as expand its new racino betting operation into a full-fledged casino.
Mangano didn’t think the governor’s proposal would “necessarily kill” a competing plan the Shinnecock Indian Nation floated for the Belmont racetrack last summer, but he said he would talk to Cuomo about how Nassau might “leverage our assets” to get something done that would be mutually beneficial.
“The Long Island region needs a new convention center,” Mangano said. “You bring people here and they spend their dollars here.”