The man who lured the New York Islanders to Brooklyn has been tapped to help resuscitate the team’s original home, Nassau Coliseum.
Nassau County officials selected developer Bruce Ratner, the Barclay’s Center majority owner, to create a plan that will make the aging arena an “attractive destination” — even without a professional sports team to boost the arena’s appeal.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano also tapped Don Monti, president of Renaissance Downtown, to be the master developer who will coordinate development at the 77-acre site. He’s also entrusted with spurring growth at the site that makes up the majority of Nassau’s economic activity.
“Today we bring Nassau County one step closer to ensuring the coliseum becomes an attractive destination for Long Island and an economic generator that creates and retains new jobs and investments,” Mangano said at a press conference, joined by Ratner, Monti and Islanders owner Charles Wang.
“This is a process to avoid a darkened coliseum,” he added.
The announcement of an “unparalleled team” of builders to lead Nassau Coliseum into a future without the Islanders comes nearly one month after Wang declared the team’s intentions move to Brooklyn in 2015.
Wang has tried for years to strike a deal with the county to keep the team on Long Island, but fell short multiple times.
His proposed Lighthouse Project never materialized after the Town of Hempstead zoning board would only approve a scaled-down version. Last year, voters shot down Mangano’s referendum to renovate the coliseum with $400 million borrowed taxpayer funds and revitalize the surrounding area, which included a minor league baseball field at Mitchel Field.
That’s when Wang started looking into other options. Some feared that the Islanders would pack up and leave New York entirely.
Ratner is expected to present a new plan for the arena within the first half of 2013, Mangano said. The developer said he’s doing this at no cost to the county. Nassau’s 19-member legislature will have to approve a plan once it’s announced.
Nassau Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead), who last month called the Islander’s decision to leave Nassau “an epic failure of leadership at all levels,” had a more toned down response this time around.
“We hope that Nassau can finally realize the promise that the Hub area represents for this region,” he said through a spokesman.
Wang’s relationship with Ratner was key in bringing the Barclay’s owner to Nassau, Mangano said. Both Wang and Ratner will work together to attract professional and collegiate sports team to Nassau Coliseum for preseason games, Mangano said.
“Our job is to put together a scheme and a plan that makes sense that in a way can be strategically used so it will not only be wonderful for the people of this county but also for jobs and economic development,” Ratner said.
Wang declined to answer questions at the press conference.
Many questions remain about how Ratner can invigorate an arena of that size without a professional sports team as an anchor tenant.
The coliseum “obviously needs some spiffing up, maybe more, both physically and marketing,” Ratner said, adding, “42 [years old] is very, very old for any structure that entertains people.”
Monti, the master developer, expressed confidence in revitalizing the surrounding area.
“You have my personal commitment that we will hit the ground running,” he said. “I recognize that our selection represents a vote of confidence and I can assure you that we will not take that responsibility lightly.”
When Wang spoke in October at the Barclay’s Center, he reiterated his pledge to turn the Nassau Hub into a “destination.”
Mangano noted that Wang’s presence may help move the project along at a faster pace.
He’s a “stakeholder, he cares about Long Island,” Mangano said. “And certainly he controls the property for the next several years and to have him at the table helps create an ability to enact plans more rapidly.”