A new hockey arena in a sea of asphalt won't generate the revenue that Nassau County needs or that the New York Islanders want to make a new Coliseum plan work, experts say.

A key to the project's success: Development of the rest of the 77 county-owned acres at the site -- possibly with stores and offices, restaurants and housing. It's an option Islanders' owner Charles Wang still wants as he negotiates with the county hoping to gain development rights for the property. Other developers say they'd like the chance to submit proposals as well.

County officials, hoping to gain voter approval for a $400-million bond referendum to build a new Coliseum for the Islanders and a minor-league baseball stadium, say they expect some of the money to go toward developing the rest of the site. In exchange, Nassau would get a greater share of the revenue from business leases.

"The Coliseum ends up being the magnet that draws everything else in," said Richard Bivone, the Nassau chairman of the Long Island Business Council. "If it's approved, the Coliseum brings people in to invest in everything else and the county then recoups the money."

What's more, the county hopes for new sales tax revenue, and might gain additional funds from land sales, though officials have not negotiated the details.

Wang spent years trying in vain to get his $3.8-billion Lighthouse project approved for the Coliseum site and another tract across Hempstead Turnpike. Now, talks with the county are focused on the revenue-sharing and the potential for development rights for Wang, county officials say.

"Quite frankly, you can't develop the property without Charles," said County Executive Edward Mangano, noting that Wang operates the Coliseum, owns the Long Island Marriott next door and has usage rights on the land in between.

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Not an automatic win

But even revenue from new development may not be a clear win for county coffers, said sports economist Andrew Zimbalist.

"On the one hand, you can't say definitively that this thing won't pay out, but it strikes me that it's a very steep hill to climb," Zimbalist said.

The developer will get the surest return, he said. Net sales tax revenue may not increase for the county if new restaurants take business away from old ones, he said.

For his part, Wang contends there's not "much of a chance to make back" the money he has sunk into the Islanders.

But development beyond the Coliseum surely would help.

"We look forward to working with the county executive and the Town of Hempstead in the approval of any development surrounding the Coliseum," said Islanders senior vice president Michael Picker.

But Bivone, a member of Mangano's advisory committee on the area's development, said that with public money involved, the contract to build on the site must consider more than what any single developer wants.

Some developers say Wang shouldn't be the presumptive winner of development rights.

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"The balance of the land should be put up for bid like it was before," said Garden City developer Vincent Polimeni, who bid during the first Request for Proposals in 2005. "And if they put out the bid, I would bid on it."

Syosset developer Ed Blumenfeld said: "Do I think it should automatically go to Charles Wang? Absolutely not."

Others, however, said Wang should have a role to play.

"He has a major stake and a major investment," said builder Michael Dubb, who owns the Beechwood Organization in Jericho. "He might deserve first crack . . . I don't think it's necessarily wrong to give him certain development rights in exchange for being willing to stay here for another 30 years."

Still, Dubb, who has proposed residential development on a separate parcel owned by Wang in Plainview, said he's watching the process and remains interested in building at the Coliseum site, too.

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Waiting for clarity

"All of us are waiting to really understand what the zoning will permit," he added.

The Town of Hempstead has scheduled a zoning hearing for June 21. In her zoning proposal for the site last summer, town Supervisor Kate Murray allowed for 5.4 million square feet of buildable space, compared with 8.8 million square feet sought by the Lighthouse plan. Murray said the "delinking" of the Coliseum from the other development "makes our zone that much more viable."

If Wang is the developer, it means he can build less, because he's not also paying to build the Coliseum, experts said. If he's not, other builders will have an easier time getting a piece of the action.

"If you were going to pay for all of it out of private development, it had to be so dense, the Town of Hempstead couldn't live with it," said Stuart Rabinowitz, president of neighboring Hofstra University. "It's a great idea to uncouple those issues.

Mangano's committee will report on development options within six months. Ideas are flowing, from research facilities to a new downtown design.

"It has to be that at the end of the day, when it's all built, that it works for everyone," said the Business Council's Bivone.