On May 2nd, four different business entities lobbied to win the right to redevelop the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. We’ll take a closer look at the four competing proposals at a later date, but for now, let’s focus on the one bid that has been generating the most buzz. Nassau Events Center is a coalition that is headed by Barclays’ Center developer Bruce Ratner, and includes Ratner’s Forest City Ratner Cos., Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Legends Hospitality, Guggenheim Partners, Live Nation, architects SHoP and Gensler, and Hunt Construction. The centerpiece of the group’s proposal is a scaled down Coliseum that would cut seating by over 3,000 and cost 89 million to refurbish. Additional projects would include the building of a 2,000 seat theater, a cinema, and an outdoor amphitheater that would be projected to cost an additional $140 million. At first glance, Ratner’s proposal doesn’t seem to excel beyond the competing offers, but his vision incorporates something unique that has gained some attention. If the county selects Ratner’s plan to revamp the Coliseum, the Islanders would play 6 of their home games in the arena.
The option of having future New York Islander home games in Nassau County is something that has to peak some interest. Following a recent poll to gauge the reaction of Long Island fans on the franchise’s move to Brooklyn, Ratner and Barclays Center DEO Brett Yormak concluded that the residents of Nassau County still wanted their hockey. “It’s their team. It’s important for the Long Island fan base to stay connected to the Islanders” said Yormak. He continued to sell the other possibilities of having multiple venues. “We could also offer a 12-game ticket plan for Long Islanders, with six games at the Coliseum and six games in Brooklyn.”
It seems Ratner has a genuine concern for the Long Island fan. Theoretically, he would be losing money by moving 6 revenue producing nights to a smaller arena. The Nassau Events Center leader, as well as Yormak, has continued to stand firm on the 13,000 seating capacity. This combined with the idea of “heritage nights” at the Coliseum, would ensure each of the selected Coliseum dates would be a hot ticket, as the Isles would take on longtime rivals such as the Rangers, Penguins, and Flyers. The lifelong island fans wouldn’t be thrown the left over schedule scraps, aka the Florida Panthers.
The plan, which was “blessed” by Islanders’ owner Charles Wang, could possibly have to be approved by the league and the NY Rangers. I’d like to think that a league whose ratings continue to be the lowest among the four major sports would do everything in their power to cater to a longtime, committed fan base. And the Rangers, well, don’t be a dick!
With all this being said, the initial verdict amongst Islander fans hasn’t been overwhelming. According to a recent poll take by lighthousehockey, 34 percent of fans said that having 6 games at the Coliseum after the move to Brooklyn would be “pointless,” where only 30 percent classified it as “awesome.” This strikes me as the naysayers being completely stubborn. Simply, fans that had their toy taken away and now just want to pout about it. Throughout the very unofficial polling I’ve done, there seems to be a polarizing view among different generations on Long Island. Younger individuals seem much more understanding about the franchises move to Brooklyn. After certain conversations with folks who’ve enjoyed the Isles’ heyday, you would’ve thought they were moving to Saskatchewan. Following years of constant gridlock, it became clear that it was either Brooklyn or bust for the Islanders. Charles’ Wang made the best of the situation and kept the team as close as possible. Ratner’s 6 game proposal seems like a natural evolution of this process. At the end of the day, the product/roster on the ice will continue to improve, and the Long Island faithful should embrace every opportunity to view their up and coming contender in person.