Cadre of Islander fans supports new arena

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang with Nassau

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray announce they are putting forth s county wide public referendum to build a ballpark and a new state of the art Nassau Coliseum. (May 11, 2011) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Scattered among the union members, Islanders staffers and county politicians at Nassau Coliseum were a few dozen hopeful Islander fans.

They were not as gung-ho as some of the other attendees of the announcement of a bond referendum to subsidize a new arena, but the hockey fans, most of whom spend far more time in the 40-year-old Coliseum than most there yesterday, do want to see the bond approved by their fellow voters.

"I'm all for it," said Steve Stromfeld of East Meadow, an Islanders season-ticket holder for 12 years. "I'm absolutely all for it because I want to keep the team here, I want the economic growth. Absolutely."

"I hope it goes forward," said Larry Levy, a 10-year season-ticket holder from Great Neck. "Ultimately, something will be built here. It should be a new arena that keeps the team here."

After the last few seasons without much success on the ice and raised ticket prices last season, the fans have dwindled -- the Islanders have ranked last among the 30 NHL teams in attendance in four of the six seasons since the 2004-05 lockout. That includes this past season, when the team averaged 11,059 fans per game.

But now, with the Aug. 1 vote looming and then the possibility of a ground-breaking next year, some of the diehards feel there will be a better vibe in the Coliseum next season.

"Hopefully all the Islander fans show up and get this passed, as well as Nassau County residents that want any kind of development in the next 20 years," said Sean O'Hara of Levittown. "When it's approved, it will increase morale in the building."

And about that building -- the Coliseum consistently is derided for its lack of modern touches, lack of just about anything that most other teams' fans get to experience in their home arenas.

"I hope they keep some of the sight lines of this place," said Levy, who has been coming to the Coliseum since it opened. "It would be nice to have some of the amenities of other arenas, but this place is special."

There is also the feeling that the team can improve easier with the promise of a new arena and the knowledge that the Islanders will be on Long Island for years to come.

"It can only attract better players with a better arena," Stromfeld said. "You can't attract top players without a new arena. Just like how you want a place you can bring a business client to without being embarrassed."

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