Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano Tuesday named the Madison Square Garden Co. and Forest City Ratner Companies as finalists for a multimillion-dollar overhaul of Nassau Coliseum.
Mangano pushed back the deadline for a final decision until mid-August from July 15, giving the firms time to negotiate and execute contracts that will contain their final offers for the project.
"Clearly, it's shaping up to be a very difficult choice between two giants in the industry," Mangano said in an interview. "Either one clearly could achieve success at the site."
Mangano said he will use the contracts -- which will legally bind the companies to their proposals' terms -- in making his final decision.
The contracts, which will include the percentage of annual revenue the county will receive, were given to MSG and Forest City Ratner several weeks ago. Both candidates have asked for more time to complete them, Mangano told the county's Business Advisory Council in a meeting Tuesday. The council, made up of local business leaders, is advising Mangano on the choice of a developer.
"The dual contracts that went out will generate further competition, which will require the developers to sharpen their pencils and provide more economic benefits to the county," said council member Kevin Law, who heads the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group.
Once the agreements are finalized and Mangano picks the winning bidder, he will submit one contract to the county legislature, which must approve any final agreement. Mangano said he hopes the legislature could vote by late August or early September.
Mangano did not provide contracts to the other bidders, Syosset developer Ed Blumenfeld and Bernard Shereck's New York Sports LLC, of Bayville.
But Blumenfeld, who had proposed a $180 million development that included a new Coliseum, convention center, apartments, office space and a movie theater, said Tuesday that he has had discussions with developer Bruce Ratner, the executive chairman of Forest City Ratner, about whether to "join forces."
"If it's going to happen, it's going to happen quickly," Blumenfeld said of a potential partnership with Ratner, with whom he has worked before. "We need to get this done and done right."
Mangano had said he would make a decision on the Coliseum's request for proposals by July 15. But he decided to negotiate final contracts with both MSG and Ratner, rather than go the traditional route of announcing a single winner based on a standard "term sheet" that is open to change.
"My experience has been that there's typically differences between the term sheet and the actual contract," Mangano said. "This brings certainty."
Mangano said the two "proposals are very competitive, so the decision-making will likely be in the details reflected in the contract."
Businessman Bert Brodsky, chairman of Mangano's advisory council, said the effort would prevent any candidate from "playing hardball," instead providing a choice of what's "best for Nassau County."Ratner's $229 million proposal would renovate the Coliseum and provide for 13,000 seats, with the ability to go down to 4,000 as needed. The plan calls for an outdoor amphitheater that can be converted to an ice-skating rink and a separate 2,000-seat indoor theater, restaurants, a bowling alley or movie theater and retail. Ratner, who will be bringing the New York Islanders from the Coliseum to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015, has said he wants to bring minor league hockey, lacrosse and Arena Football League teams to the Coliseum.
Ratner said in a statement Tuesday that his team was "more enthusiastic than ever" about its proposal.
"We are ready to create a Nassau like never before that will make Long Islanders proud," he said.
MSG, which is partnering with The Cordish Companies, Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate firm, and Uniondale developer Scott Rechler, pitched a $250 million renovation that would create a 14,500-seat arena, which could go down to 1,700 seats as needed. At least one of MSG's sports franchises -- the WNBA's New York Liberty; the Connecticut Whale, the Rangers' minor league affiliate; or the Erie Bayhawks, the Knicks' D-League team -- would play at the Coliseum. An entertainment complex would include an Islanders-themed sports bar, other restaurants and bowling.
"With our vision and proven track record in revitalizing and operating several world-class venues, MSG's plan will achieve a bold reimagining of the Nassau Coliseum site as a thriving, 365-day-a-year destination," Hank Ratner, MSG president and chief executive, said Tuesday.
Because a winning bidder has not been chosen and the RFP process remains ongoing, Blumenfeld and Shereck are not eliminated from contention for the Coliseum redevelopment, Mangano said."We saw ourselves as David versus Goliath," said Shereck, who had suggested a $60 million to $90 million renovation of the existing arena and admitted he was "disappointed." "I thought we were bringing a lot to the table."
The Dolan family owns controlling interest in MSG and owns Cablevision, Newsday's parent company.