Islanders' Charles Wang prefers leaving Nassau Coliseum early

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang during a New York Islanders owner Charles Wang during a press conference about Nassau Coliseum. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp, 2011

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Islanders owner Charles Wang said Thursday he would favor moving the team to Brooklyn one season earlier than planned, and criticized the politicians who failed to stop the move from becoming necessary.

Asked about the possibility of moving the hockey team in 2014, rather than 2015, when the Islanders are to begin playing at the Barclays Center after their Nassau Coliseum lease expires, Wang said he had talked to Barclays developer Bruce Ratner "about this, obviously, and it would be nice if we could and there is maybe an opportunity.

"But government works in very strange ways many times, and some of them we don't understand what the result is. We are committed to fulfill our lease."

Pressed by Christopher Botta, a former Islanders executive who interviewed him at a Sports Business Journal symposium in Brooklyn, Wang said, "If it makes sense for everyone, obviously we would ."

Later, Wang told Newsday "We are not in any discussions" about leaving Nassau Coliseum next year.

"It's really not in my control," he said. "We will work with whatever the county does. We are prepared to honor the lease, which is what we're doing now . . . [Moving early] would be fine, but we're set with where we are and what it is is what it is. We knew this going in."

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Nassau County officials declined to comment on whether there has, or will be, discussions with the Islanders about departing early. "The county cannot comment during the RFP process," said Brian Nevin, spokesman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

He was referring to the request for proposals issued by Mangano last month. Nassau wants to downsize the current 16,000-seat county-owned arena to between 8,000 and 12,000 seats in an effort to attract family shows, concerts and minor league sports.

Nassau has received four bids to redevelop the Coliseum, including from the Madison Square Garden Co., Syosset developer Ed Blumenfeld and one from Ratner, who has said his bid includes an "iconic design" that would "create a Nassau like never before." The Dolan family holds controlling interest in the Madison Square Garden Co., and owns Cablevision, Newsday's parent company.

Moving early would enable the Islanders to tap into the improved revenue streams afforded by the new Barclays Center, while the county presumably would receive a payment to compensate it for allowing the team to leave.

Wang said he had "bona fide offers" to move the team out of the New York area before announcing the deal with Barclays last fall, "but we made a commitment to try everything possible to stay local. It's the New York Islanders."

Still smarting over the failure to get a new Coliseum in Nassau County, Wang said too many politicians "come in and they don't do anything and they get re-elected. It's such a shame."

Mangano said in a statement, "Charles Wang and I partnered to retain the NY Islanders in Nassau County. Unfortunately, voters did not support the public referendum."

Wang said some government leaders give children "the wrong message, because their values are wrong. We need to hold them accountable. We hold business people accountable. We hold our athletes accountable.

"If you break down in your defense or you have a lousy goals-against average, we trade you. I wish we could trade politicians." With Robert Brodsky

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