We all want to keep the Islanders, and we all want a new Coliseum. But the new Coliseum should be built with private money. Here's how: Nassau County should segregate the parcel of land that a new Coliseum will be constructed on from the entire 77 acres at the Hub. The county should, through its official request for proposals, require that the successful bidder come with a professional sports team.
Obviously, the likely winner would be Charles Wang. The agreed-upon purchase price for the raw land would be payable to the county over five years, beginning the fifth year after the Coliseum opens.
Wang could put together an investment group to come up with a third of the construction costs -- estimated at $125 million -- and borrow the remainder from a commercial lender. He would then control the design and construction of the new building and create the Coliseum he wants.
Under this plan, Wang would own the site and benefit fully from its financial success and the appreciation in its value. Even in a challenging financial period, banks would lend to the project because they'd have a proven income stream and sufficient collateral: the Coliseum. Nassau would retain the remainder of the 77-acre site -- probably about 55 acres -- for future development, leasing that land to Wang for $1 a year for parking until a full development plan is approved. The full plan would include a 6,800-space, multistory garage for the Coliseum's exclusive use.
Private development failed in the past because Coliseum construction was tied to a larger development plan that was rejected by the Town of Hempstead. Since the property use for the new Coliseum will be exactly the same as the current use, no special zoning approvals would be needed to get started.
Under this plan, Nassau gets its new Coliseum, keeps the Islanders and increases the property tax base. It brings in tax dollars rather than spending them.