Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano wants to turn Nassau Coliseum into a scaled-down arena with 8,000 to 12,000 seats for family shows, concerts and minor league sports.

Mangano released the plan Tuesday in a request for proposals to firms to redevelop and operate the Coliseum and is expected to unveil it formally during his State of the County address Wednesday night.

The current arena has more than 16,000 seats, and Mangano said a "right-sized" arena would attract more shows to the 40-year-old Uniondale facility and will free up space in the parking lot for other development. The Coliseum's primary tenant, the Islanders, is scheduled to depart in 2015 to play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the Brooklyn Nets now play.

"This is a practical plan, rather than the grandiose ones over the years that have not gained approval," Mangano said. "This plan is sustainable and financeable."

Nassau would get a percentage of the gross revenue from arena events, Mangano said. The funds would help pay down the county's $1.2 billion in debt from property tax assessment settlements, he said. The county legislature must approve the winning bidder.

Mangano released the RFP after consulting with Barclays developer Bruce Ratner, who lured the Islanders to Brooklyn last year. In November, Mangano asked Ratner, head of Forest City Ratner Companies, to determine if the Coliseum could be made into a competitive, viable arena.

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"The arena sits in one of the most vital centers of the metropolitan region, within easy access to hundreds of thousands of fans," Ratner said Tuesday in a statement. "Developed properly, we think the arena will be a great success."

Mangano declined to say whether Ratner would bid.

The RFP gives preference to a bidder with "a commitment from a professional sports franchise" to play at the arena.

Political and sports experts say the Coliseum could host preseason or minor league hockey or basketball. The Islanders' minor league affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, plays in Connecticut, while the Nets' affiliate, the Springfield Armor, plays in Massachusetts.

The Islanders' lease for the Coliseum expires in 2015. Mangano said there is "no deal on the table" for the team to leave earlier but the RFP allows for the possibility of a "sooner termination" of the team's lease.

Islanders' senior vice president Michael Picker did not respond to calls for comment.

Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said many acts decline to play at the Coliseum because they cannot attract crowds to fill the arena. A smaller Coliseum would "open new doors and make the Coliseum a competitive location across the East Coast," Walker said.

Mangano said the downsized arena would have a spruced-up exterior, a wider concourse, new restaurants and better bathrooms.

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"It will protect sales taxes collected at the arena and help neighborhood businesses that rely on the traffic flow from the arena," Mangano added.

Nassau gets little annual revenue from its current deal with Coliseum facility operator SMG. Total revenue to the county from SMG in 2010 was $2.4 million, including $1.12 million from Islanders games, said Nassau Comptroller George Maragos.

"This plan would create a new revenue stream for the county," Mangano said.

Newsday has reported that the Islanders and SMG owe the county up to $3.8 million in unpaid bills.

SMG did not respond to requests for comment.

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The RFP winner would work alongside Donald Monti, president and CEO of Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns, which Mangano chose to develop the land around the Coliseum. Monti is planning a $2 billion biotech park and mixed-use development there.

"We were told by the county that the firm selected by the RFP would begin discussions with us immediately, as master developer for the site," Monti said.

The new proposal for the Coliseum comes after past projects failed to come to fruition. They included the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project proposed by Islanders owner Charles Wang, and a 2011 plan to build a $400 million publicly funded arena, which residents voted down.

Said John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor: "The idea of moving something forward after all these years is something we would be very supportive of."

 

 

NEW NASSAU COLISEUM PLAN

 

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Tuesday began seeking developers to overhaul the Nassau Coliseum. The winning bidder would:

Renovate or reconstruct the arena to have a minimum seating capacity of 8,000

Pay the entire cost of the renovation.

Lease the Coliseum to the county, which would continue to own the land.

Make an annual rental payment to the county based on a percentage of revenue.

Be responsible for all maintenance and pay all capital expenses during the first five years.

Develop programming for family events, concerts, sports and other events.

Preferably have a commitment from a professional sports team to play home games at the Coliseum.

Use "Nassau County Veterans Memorial" in the arena's name.

Source: Nassau County executive