Wang: Options open on Islanders' relocation

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While saying he has no plans to move the Islanders off Long Island, team owner Charles Wang said yesterday he is keeping his options open.

And, he insisted, he does have options - regardless of a clause in the team's contract with the county that requires the Islanders to play at Nassau Coliseum until 2015.

Wang - speaking publicly for the first time since speculation emerged early this year about possible relocation of the team - said that an agreement he made with the county in 2007 to renovate the 36-year-old Coliseum and develop the area around it includes language that gives the team an out: Once the county executive submits a lease for the 150 acres of county-owned property, the legislature has 120 days to approve it. If it doesn't, the team can leave.

Sources close to the deal say the language is insurance for Wang and partner Scott Rechler, who will already have spent millions on the application process.

But a spokesman for the county said he doesn't anticipate such a delay.

"There has always been a consensus in Mineola, from both parties, that once the town goes through its exhaustive process that there would be a fairly quick approval," Bruce Nyman said.

In an interview before yesterday's Hempstead Town board meeting, Wang was asked if scheduling the Islanders for a September exhibition game in Kansas City, Mo., had been a subtle way of getting the county to take action on the Lighthouse Project - and therefore a new Nassau Coliseum. "I don't think it was that subtle," he said.

About a possible team move, he added: "I'm not contemplating it; I'm not negotiating with anyone, but I continue to keep my options open - and they should be open all the time."

He continued: "Ultimately, if you don't want to go to a [Islanders] game because the arena is a dump, I lose, the county loses, everybody loses. I want this thing to proceed. We can talk and talk, but we've got to get off our butts. Let's get it done."

Nassau County loses between $1 million and $2 million a year on the upkeep of the Coliseum, he said. "It's a Long Island team," he said. "They belong where they are."

In Kansas City, an interested party was trying to find out what was happening at the Hempstead meeting.

"We follow it by the hour," said Paul McGannon, president of NHL21, the group working to bring an NHL team to Kansas City's Sprint Center, which opened in October 2007. McGannon said the Islanders are one of three franchises his group is eyeing. "This city is ... option one for expansion or relocation. ... Do I follow it? I follow it by the hour."

Staff writer Anthony Rieber contributed to this story.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

The plan

The plan for 150 acres surrounding the Nassau Coliseum include

A renovated Coliseum

2,300 apartments and townhouses.

Minor-league ballpark

Sports technology center

Live-performance theater

Five-star 300-room hotel

Trolley system connecting key points

Underground parking

The impact

Key points from draft environmental impact statement submitted yesterday

75,000 construction and related jobs during building over 10 years; 19,000 permanent jobs

Coliseum renovation would take two to three years.

Water needs would require a new well, possibly on Nassau Community College land

1.9 million more gallons of sewage per day, which would go to Cedar Creek Sewage Plant

Redesigned exit from Meadowbrook Parkway to Hempstead Turnpike

Of the 2,300 residential units: 460 units (20 percent) would be affordable; 115 units (5 percent) rentals, half for seniors and half for students

Additional 333 school-age children

$25 million for Uniondale School District

WHAT'S NEXT

1. Review of developer's draft environmental impact statement by a variety of agencies, then consensus on a final impact statement

2. Town board hearing on rezoning the site

3.Town board vote on rezoning the site

4. Subdivision approval by Nassau County planning commission

5 Lease agreement approval by Nassau County Legislature.

(The county owns the property; the Lighthouse Group would lease it.)

6. Site plan approvals by town and county

7. Building permits issued by town building department

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