New deal would give Islanders control of Coliseum

Nassau Coliseum is home to the Islanders.

Nassau Coliseum is home to the Islanders. (Credit: Newsday File, 2008 / Alan Raia)

A new deal to give the New York Islanders control of the Nassau Coliseum could help end a long-standing roadblock to renovating the arena and building the Lighthouse Project.

The Islanders and SMG, the Coliseum's manager, have agreed to a sublease that would hand control of the arena and its revenue to the team. Outgoing County Executive Thomas Suozzi approved it this week.

In a letter, dated Monday, to incoming County Executive-elect Edward Mangano, Legislative Presiding Office Diane Yatauro and incoming Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, Suozzi said he planned to approve the sublease "before the Christmas holiday."

But Mangano, a Republican from Bethpage, slammed the sublease agreement Wednesday, calling it an "11th-hour move by a lame duck administration."

In a statement, Mangano said, "The new sublease may be good, it may be bad - but the new administration should be making this determination."

"Pushing this through on Christmas Eve is just the wrong thing to do," he added.

Reached last night, Suozzi said: "This is good for the county. It will encourage the Islanders to stay. I gave the legislature and Mangano notice of my intention . . . If someone had objected, based on the merits, I would have been happy to listen to it."

For years, the SMG contract has been a major stumbling block to developing the Coliseum and surrounding property. Nassau entered into a 30-year lease agreement with SMG of Philadelphia in 1979 and later extended it to 2015.

County officials and developers have said the lease agreement, which requires Nassau to maintain the building, allows SMG to keep the bulk of revenue from concession stands, parking, luxury boxes, and management rights to any facility built on the 70 acres around the Coliseum.

Because of the deteriorating conditions at the Coliseum and the SMG lease, Wang has complained that he loses $20 million to $30 million every year.

Suozzi wrote that the decision to approve the sublease was his. "While my consent is solely within my discretion and not subject to legislative approval, I wanted to give you notice, so that I may be aware of any concerns you may have," Suozzi wrote.

The sublease agreement, which names the New York Islanders hockey team and the Lighthouse Development Group as tenants, states that the two want to gain operating control of the Coliseum in order to "improve the marketing of the Islanders and as a condition to proceeding with such renovation and redevelopment plans."

According to the agreement, the deal "does not constitute the County's consent to or approval of any change in control or relocation of the Islanders."

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