With the defeat of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's proposal to borrow up to $400 million for a new Coliseum and a minor league ballpark, the page immediately turned to other options.
In an interview before the vote, Mangano said he is prepared to file a request for proposals for the 77-acre site that would be open to anyone with "a sustainable vision for the property." He said it will take up to six weeks to prepare and file the RFP.
The request, which would include the Town of Hempstead's zoning guidelines, would not require the winner to maintain the Coliseum or build a new arena -- and could include ideas that don't involve a sports team.
Mangano noted that the RFP will present the existing situation, noting that the county is involved in a lease with the Islanders until 2015 and that even after that point, the building's presence on the site will remain an issue for any developer to address.
"We're looking for a vision on what we have and what will become available in 2015," Mangano said.
The county legislature could still approve the borrowing even if voters turn it down, but several legislators said there are alternatives that could include both development of the space and the Islanders, without public money.
Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) said the county could push for proposals that would allow for private investment for a new arena and development. "We need to make sure the Islanders stay and we have a Coliseum we can work with," Wink said. "But we also need to make sure the private sector is heavily involved if not exclusively involved in the redevelopment of the hub area."
Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) suggested that any request for proposals should offer the development opportunity to anyone who could provide an anchor tenant for the arena and was willing to put in the most private funding.
Ed Ward, an aide to Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, said the legislature will not play any role until a new proposal is made. "The legislature will wait to see what the county executive intends to do with the parcel," Ward said.
Nassau County Democratic Committee chairman Jay Jacobs, meanwhile, has suggested the county could sell the Coliseum to Wang, leaving the rest of the land for development.
Jacobs said Wang could then privately pay to build a new arena, either on his own, through an investment group, or with the help of personal seat licenses -- a per-seat fee for the right to buy season tickets, which is now popular in professional football.
There is a precedent for seat licenses in hockey. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus (Ohio) Blue Jackets both offer them; the Pittsburgh Penguins decided not to charge the fees when they opened their arena in 2010. The Florida Panthers offer licenses for "premium seating," giving its fans the opportunity to buy seats that they could use for hockey games, concerts and other events.
But some suggest that will only work here if demand far surpasses supply -- and so might not be appropriate for the Islanders.
With Jim Baumbach