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New York Islanders still have a shot at a new arena

Islanders110110_optBY EVAN WEINER
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS

For the New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, the disappointment of losing an arena referendum in Nassau County last Monday was not the end of the road in terms of getting his Uniondale, New York-based New York Islanders a new arena. It was just a hiccup although if you read hockey writers accounts in both the New York and from the self proclaimed world's best hockey writers market, Toronto, it is all over for Wang. He should pack up and get out even if he has four years left on his lease because it will not happen for the Long Island businessman in Nassau County.

Wang, who spent part of his childhood in Queens, won't ever get a new arena in Nassau County according to the ones with supreme hockey knowledge and in fact one titan of the Toronto hockey writers Parthenon, the noted public policy and economic expert Damien Cox, suggested that the Islanders problems stem from Wang himself. Cox should stick to something he might know about — talking to hockey insiders about proposed trades, coaching or general manager changes — and leave the public policy writing to experts who understand property tax hikes, funding mechanisms for arenas and stadiums and whether a sports venue is an economic engine.

Cox probably has been to a New Jersey Devils game in Newark, New Jersey and if Cox and the rest of the enlightened thinkers who turn out daily rabble about hockey had any understanding of what they try and write about in the business arena of sports, Newark is a perfect place to start an urban policy lesson.

Newark was the apple of the eye of the former owners of the New Jersey Nets back in the 1990s and into the early part of the last decade. The Nets ownership planned to build an arena there and when it didn't happen, the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association David Stern called New Jersey politicians some names and said the politicians "blew it."

Funny thing, the New Jersey Nets franchise of Stern's NBA is using the very land on which the arena that was built after the Nets-Newark arena talk meltdown that the Nets ownership and Newark were planning. The team is renting dates at the building until a Brooklyn arena opens up. The New Jersey Devils ownership jumped into the void and worked out a deal with Newark to build a facility in a public-private partnership.

For Cox and the rest of the hockey hacks, perhaps some facts should be explained to them so they write better columns. In the sports stadium/arena game, no never means no even if voters say no.

Here are some examples of where the voters were sadly mistaken in the voter’s booth after rejecting a sports venue. Seattle, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Ramapo, New York eight miles north of the New Jersey-New York border at Montvale.

In the early 1990s, Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent was terrorizing cities in hopes of getting a new ballpark in places like Cleveland. No new park and your team will be moved. In an awful lot of places the threatening tactics worked. Cleveland can up with a "sin tax" with tax hikes on cigarettes and alcohol to help pay for a new Cleveland baseball park. The explosion of stadium and arena building in the United States started after the 1986 tax reform and owners noticed that a large loophole existed if a municipality put up funding for a building. The municipality could take as little as eight cents out of every dollar earned inside a facility and use that money to pay down the stadium or arena debt.

All the possible relocation threats worked as almost everyone got a new stadium between 1986 and 2011. Only two franchises in baseball are looking for new facilities, the Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff and the Tampa Bay Rays owners. Just about every minor league ballpark has been replaced or renovated since the 1990 Major League-Minor League development pact.

King County, Washington, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and Milwaukee residents said no to funding ballparks in votes. But the elected officials knew better and put new stadiums in those cities. Washington state lawmakers imposed tax hikes in restaurant, hotel and motel and restaurant tabs to fund a new Mariners home. There was a six county sales tax hike around Milwaukee to fund that city's new ball yard and A deal was crafted for Pittsburgh to build a new baseball facility and a new football stadium.

In the summer of 2010, Ramapo, New York voters overwhelmingly said no to a publicly funded minor league style baseball park only to see the Town Supervisor and the town council nullify the vote. Ramapo residents have no idea what the final tab on the stadium will be but they will be paying for years for a park that was built for a team in a financially shaky independent baseball loop, the CanAm League.

In the 1990s, stadium building was viewed as an economic engine which has over the decades proven to be false. The jobs created are mostly



 
Comments (7)
7 Saturday, 10 September 2011 02:33
tvelardo22
...but I won't hold my breath on it when compared to the Farmer's Field in L.A.
6 Sunday, 07 August 2011 19:02
Frenchy
Its his turn to step up to the plate. He clearly said on Mike Francessas radio show he has private developers ready to step in and build a new arena/hub with private money. Maybe the Nassau Democrats are richer than we know (it would make sense since they are not spending money to get anyone elected).
5 Saturday, 06 August 2011 11:12
Steve Chong
Evan, you put good examples of how publicly funded stadiums were built after being voted down. However, for the Islanders, it is NOT just an arena here. Wang wanted to develop the Coliseum land and when the zoning in TOH was raped down, he decided to go to the public route. THe latest zoning allowed by TOH really makes it economically inviable. You could be right, but the isles are NO longer economically viable in Nassau as it stands now.

http://mobile.newsday.com/inf/infomo;JSESSIONID=8388697A716B56AC8E12.3133?site=newsday&view=search_results_item&feed:a=newsday_5min&feed:c=islanders&feed:i=1.3073326&feed:tag=newsday_1min,newsday_5min,newsday_10min&feed:max=50&feed:search=Coliseum

Hempstead 's new zone allows for 5.4 million square feet of construction, compared with 8.8 million square feet in the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project, which Islanders owner Charles Wang had proposed for the site six years ago. Hempstead also proposed a maximum of 500 housing units, compared with more than 2,300 units in the Lighthouse plan. Murray and the Hempstead town board had put the brakes on the Lighthouse project, saying it was too dense and didn't fit with the area's "suburban character."

But while some local developers said they had ideas for the 77 acres of land, they also noted the town's limit on total density might make any plan with an arena less feasible.
4 Saturday, 06 August 2011 10:45
Steve Chong
I think Wang may have to sell his Marriott if he decides to move the Isles to Queens . Losing Mariott for a good chance to develop Willets Point is a small price to pay. Or, he can have his Mariott as a hotel to provide their customers access to the Isles practicing at Iceworks in Syosset. Mariott is halfway between Citi Field and Iceworks. Just a thought.
3 Friday, 05 August 2011 19:28
Chris TMC
The opinion of Damien Cox is worth far, far less than the credit he seems to get. He knows little to nothing about the Islanders, and it makes no sense to pretend that he does. I personally find anyone who is arrogant about their knowledge while demonstrating their own ignorance to be particularly nauseating. Thanks for pointing out the huge flaws in his "logic".

The good thing is that Charles Wang does not have to leave the metro area and does not have to give up their huge television contract. The Islanders can actually play anywhere in the metro area they are wanted. Nassau county better come up with something to make it worthwhile for him to continue to go through all of this- because if they dont, the Islanders will remain the Islanders... but they will play a bit farther west. Both Queens and Nassau are interested, and I dont blame them. If that happens, the Isles will be set, but Nassau county will suffer for it.
2 Friday, 05 August 2011 15:38
NYIFC
One other thing, Wang is all in on Bridgeport, he's running that building per an agreement made this summer. Another reason he's tied to the Coliseum site even if Murray's developers come in with a proposal that removes them after 2015.
1 Friday, 05 August 2011 15:36
NYIFC
Mangano went public referendum (unlike Bloomberg/Koch)for his own political cover long-term and now has made it anyone's property to develop on Murray's zone, he has no reason to jump back into that mess again even if all else is futile. Wang's problem is he cannot threaten because Nassau knows he owns the Marriot and even bought out Rechler, that's his hotel and he has to have his team there, but no longer has Rechler for a sustainable development and likely has no appetite to get in line with everyone else after 240m in losses. There is no easy out here for Wang who is going to want big money from Cablevision to leave the Metro area on that television contract.

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