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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Coliseum overhaul can’t overlook the past

A rendering of the renovated Nassau Coliseum.

A rendering of the renovated Nassau Coliseum. Photo Credit: SHoP Architect

Nassau Coliseum’s got “good bones,” an architect said Wednesday during a media tour.

Which is why Coliseum developer Bruce R. Ratner told reporters Wednesday that the decision to build on those bones, rather start from scratch by demolishing the arena, was the right move.

Once renovations are complete, the refurbished Coliseum will eclipse the old, Ratner said. It’s a point he made to reporters, over and over again.

Ah, but good bones hold memories, even when covered by new skin and fresh clothes.

Perhaps that’s why reporters asked many, many questions about the New York Islanders professional hockey team that Nassau lost to Brooklyn.

Perhaps that’s also why, after climbing up and out of the construction-dust covered coliseum arena — where a single American flag still hangs from the ceiling, crisp and clean — that the unexpected discovery of a massive side room containing rows of Islander- royal blue, orange and white-painted girders — seemed, well, so comforting.

The Coliseum had to change, or keep dying.

That much, alas, is certain.

And so it is changing, and in so many ways.

At each stop along the tour, the developers talked about what the Coliseum would hold, come its reopening in March 2017.

A metal-wrapped exterior, inspired by Long Island’s dunes, would create the illusion of movement when hit by natural light during the day — and would be visible for miles when artificially illuminated at night, developers said.

Then there are the concessions, pushed a foot back farther into hallway walls, to add a greater sense of space.

There will be eateries featuring local foods. One rendering showed a concession named “Long Island Taste,” surrounded by happy, computer-generated people — with all but one woman traversing the hallway in spike heels.

What about the Coliseum’s name? a reporter asked.

There are plans to sell naming rights, came the answer, although Ratner said the building also would retain its original moniker, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, too. Just how that would work went unexplained.

And the Islanders?

Ratner tried repeatedly to redirect the conversation away from the Coliseum’s past to its future, saying that current renovations would end up birthing a major music venue.

But it would be a mistake if the renovation ends up severing the building from its past.

The Coliseum is more than a building.

It’s a mirror, a glimpse into the way Nassau once saw itself — as a post-World War II suburban superpower, one savvy enough to build a venue so big and bold that it attracted professional hockey and basketball teams and the best entertainment talent the nation had to offer.

Because the region mattered, and believed itself second to none.

That’s the bar.

And come next year, we’ll see what the redevelopment reflects back.

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