As a New Jersian (Jerseyite?) I am fortunate enough to have my sports needs met in many ways in many locations in close proximity to one another. If I want to see the Flyers, Rangers, Devils or Islanders, I’m less than two hours away. I passed the Prudential Center last night. I’ll be near Wells Fargo tomorrow. I take my fortune for granted. We never quite realize our luck until it’s gone, but before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk the boys in Blue and Orange.
On Monday, the New York Islanders were dealt a nasty hand when the county of Nassau denied their proposal to build a new arena. Charles Wang, the owner of the Islanders proposed a community funded project that would not only provide a new abode for the hockey team on the brink of its 40th anniversary, but would also build a brand new minor league baseball stadium. The price tag on the project was a mere $400 million dollars. The people of Nassau county were asked to take to the polls to vote on the project.
The final vote was not posted, however, with over 85% of the votes counted, the decision was leaning in the direction of the nay sayers. There are a few reasons the voters may have put the kibosh on the project:
Some speculate it was a case of party affiliations that got the idea shot down. When Ed Mangano took the Nassau County Executive seat out from under Tom Suozzi, Tommy Boy’s followers weren’t too happy and would automatically put down any plans endorsed by Mangano, including the rebuilding of the Nassau Coliseum.
Some say voters were misinformed. Yes, the whole country is going through some tough times and taxes are a major issue for most of us. When Nassau tax payers saw the price to pay for a new arena (yes, it’s $400 million) they collectively let out a loud, “Are you friggin’ kiddin’ me?!” (I’m allowed to say this, I have family on L.I.) and refused to pay for the tax hike. But wait… how much was this tax hike going to be? It is estimated that at most the tax would be around $58 a year, an average of $1.12 a week. I don’t know about most tax payers, but I think my pocket could handle that chump change every week. I probably drop about that much out of my change purse on a weekly basis.
Finally. some say that this is the direct result of a lack of interest in the team that, in recent years, had subpar performances. Even with such studs as John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Michal Grabner, and PA Parenteau, the Islanders have failed to make the playoffs for the past 4 years. They also had the 2nd lowest attendance in the NHL. The biggest blip on the radar out of the team in this past year was the hilarity and show of barbarism on February 11 when the Pittsburgh Penguins came to town and the era of the “goalie fight” was born. For those who don’t remember what happened as a result of that night, the Islanders were slapped with a $100,000 fine, only furthering their spiral into Bankruptville.
The question remains: What does this mean for the Islanders’ future in Uniondale?
The (hopefully) good news is that the Islanders’ lease on the Nassau Coliseum is not up until 2015. (Coincidentally, Quebec City has a colossal sports arena opening in 2015… that cost $400 million to build. Read More) Wang insists he will honor this agreement, but who knows what will happen afterwards? Wang issued a statement Wednesday morning:
“I would like to thank all of the Nassau County residents who participated in the August 1st referendum. I am disappointed and heartbroken with the outcome. However, what I believe is every time a door closes, another one will open. I have lived on Long Island for almost 60 years and it is my home. I am not giving up on Long Island and I hope you won’t either.
The New York Islanders have a season to concentrate on with a team that is bursting with a young core of talent, sprinkled with the right mix of veterans. This combination surely will deliver excitement, entertainment and victories. Additionally, we will continue to bring the best concerts and family shows for everyone to enjoy.
The New York Islanders were born on Long Island in 1972. As we enter our 40th year, we have only two goals for the team — winning the Stanley Cup and keeping the Islanders on Long Island.”
One thing is for sure, Wang as well as the players who took to their twitter accounts in support of voting yes, will not give up without a fight, Long Island be damned. Next move? As of now Mangano is working toward receiving private aid but is open to any proposals from Wang or others on creating a brighter and newer future for the Islanders.