Task force unveils $346.5M Coliseum plan

At Islanders media day at Nassau Coliseum, owner Charles Wang tells the crowd about his excitement for the coming season in a team that general manager Garth Snow has put together. Videojournalist: Robert Cassidy (Sept. 21, 2011)

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Architects, engineers, government officials and labor leaders Wednesday unveiled a $346.5 million proposal to renovate the Nassau Coliseum and turn the surrounding 77 acres into a sports-entertainment complex.

But the development, for which the builder would have to secure financing, drew noncommittal responses from key players, including County Executive Edward Mangano, the Town of Hempstead and Islanders owner Charles Wang, who all would have a say in the project's future.

Under the plan, developed by a task force of the Association for a Better Long Island, a private developer would spend $100 million to renovate and expand the existing Coliseum. The height of the arena would increase by as much as 25 feet, and there would be between 17,000 and 20,000 seats -- compared with just over 16,000 now.

The site would include a minor league ballpark, a parking garage with room for 6,800 cars that would join the Coliseum and the Long Island Marriott, a new indoor ice rink for practice and public use, and 70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. West Hempstead architect Angelo Francis Corva, who designed the plan, left about 25 acres on two parcels undeveloped for a future phase.

"It would be an economic boost for Long Island," Corva said. "This is vitality being brought to a site which has none at the present time, which is something we will need."

"The goal is to keep the Islanders" in Nassau, said North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a Democrat and a task force member.

The proposal, which did not mention any specific developers, follows the rejection by Nassau voters on Aug. 1 of a referendum to spend $400 million of taxpayer funds on a new arena and ballpark.

The ABLI, a real estate group, campaigned against the referendum.

Mangano, a Republican, said in a statement: "Everything is on the table. . . . No one has the market cornered on good ideas when it comes to a project of this magnitude."

Mangano added that moving ahead, "I am firmly committed to a process that ensures that whatever path we ultimately take provides the greatest benefit to our citizens, not the greatest profit to a chosen few."

Wang, who has said the Islanders will not play in the current arena after the team's lease expires in 2015, said, "If somebody comes up with anything definitive, we will obviously look at it. I can tell you one thing very definitively. Oct. 8 the puck drops. And we will have a hell of a season."

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Hempstead Town spokesman Mike Deery said: "If and when a proposal comes before the town board, we'll review it, consider it and act accordingly."

Town attorney David Levy, a task force member, did not attend the announcement.

Oyster Bay Planning Commissioner Frederick Ippolito, a task force member, took the lead on the plan, bringing in Corva and engineering firm Sidney B. Bowne & Son.

With Robert Brodsky

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