Can Long Island lose the Islanders?

It's a possibility.

At least that's what I came away thinking after listening to Charles Wang's interview with "Mike and the Mad Dog" last week. First, let me say this. The Fan is often criticized for lacking hockey coverage. And while that criticism may have some merit, Russo and Francesa came to the Coliseum and put forth a great lineup of programming. Their questions were insightful, and if they have limited knowledge of the Islander organization and team, it did not show. In fact, I saw Francesa entering the arena at the last home game I attended on another evening all together. So kudos to them for doing a bang up job.

Their interview with Wang, which dealt extensively with the Lighthouse Project was enlightening, and is the source of my post tonight. The Islander owner indicated that the team is currently waiting on approval from the Town of Hempstead to move forward on the Lighthouse project. Following that approval, the project would go back to Nassau County for the final green light. The decision from Hempstead is expected as early as this Summer, and if all goes perfectly, construction will begin on the current Coliseum in July 2009.

However, anyone following these proposals is aware that this is easier said than done. First, when asked by Russo, Wang indicated that the Islanders will never have to play at another arena during construction. If all goes as planned and renovation of NVMC begins July '09, the lower bowl only will be renovated in the off season and the Isles will play many of their first games on the road, similar to the Devils this year. The remaining work on the upper bowl will be completed in the following off season. Russo seemed a little incredulous that such work can be completed over 4 months in two consecutive Summers. Seems like a tall order to me as well.

Further discussion was devoted to the overall magnitude of the Lighthouse. Sports facilities, residences, hotels, office space and canals are envisioned. Mr. Wang thought it is integral to the overall development of Long Island as a whole that this project include all of these elements. The only problem is, as much as the scope of their ambition sounds impressive, it also makes is seem harder to achieve. Could approval from the relevant government bodies have been easier if we were simply building a new arena? I don't know.

And finally, the scary part. When asked by Mike if the Coliseum would be renovated if the Lighthouse project does not go through, Wang said it was very unlikely. And the obvious inference, which Wang would not comment on, was the possibility of the Isles having to leave Long Island if his overall project fails. So every Islander fan better hope that we'll all be skating on a frozen canal in Uniondale in Winter 2010. Otherwise, we can all get fitted for our Flyer jerseys.

After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.


NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

Hi Jim,

Given the Islanders have a television contract that runs until 2030 that pays whoever owns the team close to 300m it's highly unlikely anyone owning the Isles will move the team.

Also the Smg/Nassau County leases with the team run until 2014-2015 which makes any move impossible in a few years even with the provisions in the memorandum of understanding the lease could be voided if this plan is not approved.

Smg is not letting the Isles out of that contract.

Mr Wang was not going to say what direction he would go in if the plan was turned down and at this point he is not looking at things along those lines but of course Mr Russo and Mr Francesa do.

It should also be noted even if this plan is approved in full the Isles lease will only be extended until 2025 at the Coliseum.

7th Woman said...

No no... I'd be buying a Devils jersey instead. Not the Flyers. Wait..Or maybe a Wild jersey, I look good in green. These are things I really DON'T want to think about!!!!!

Jim McGlynn said...

Hey NYISLES1. I was unaware of the tv contract and its possible impact on the Isles staying here. However, with regard to the lease, you are dead on that SMG has never, and will likely never consider letting us out of their clutches. However, a buyout of the lease is something that is said to be under consideration. I hope you are right and there are elements that would make it hard for them to leave.

NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...


The Smg lease also gives them the right to manage whatever is built on that site in the future and if the Coliseum were torn down (as opposed to a renovation) they would have say over what was built on the land and rights of future management of that facility.

Mr Suozzi when the County approved the memorandum of understanding did give the Isles the right to opt out of the lease immediately if this plan is not approved but the Smg lease is binding with the club until 2014.

The television contract was renegotiated by John Spano which increased the value of the club by about 30m but pays them over 15m a year until 2030.

What owner walks away from that kind of revenue when most teams only get a million or two from television revenue?

My impression is Mr Wang loves owning a team and will keep it even if the plan is not approved. I have read too many articles where folks say he really takes this team winning and losing daily as seriously as the fans.