The return of the Islanders to Nassau Coliseum — part-time until the team’s new arena is built — is a glass half full. Still, that glass — beer, here? — has the potential to runneth over with benefits that will last once the team is long gone.
That’s because the return of the Islanders — who will play as many games as possible in Uniondale while the team’s state-of-the-art facility is being built at Belmont Park — also will funnel additional resources to Nassau.
“It was smart of the governor to both lure the Islanders back here and make additional state commitments at the Hub to keep momentum of what-could-be-possible going,” said Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, a business group.
While two recent news releases from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office detailed arrangements for the National Hockey League team’s temporary comeback, the documents also included mention of more state money for the Nassau Hub.
“New York State will continue its support of the Nassau Hub which will surround the Nassau Coliseum, and is committed to further investment in the Hub as part of the upcoming budget,” according to a December release.
A second release, issued Monday, also offered this:
“New York State will invest $6 million in enhancements at the Coliseum to meet NHL requirements, specifically investing in ice plant redundancy and dehumidification, and media and broadcast cabling infrastructure . . . The state will work with Nassau County to facilitate additional enhancements. These investments are in support of larger and long-term improvements in and around the Nassau Hub and Coliseum.”
Will there be other improvements?
The release does not say, but it’s a safe bet that some of the improvements to accommodate games at the Coliseum will remain after the team is gone.
How much in additional state money will be coming to support Hub redevelopment? And what will that money be used for?
Again, the releases do not say.
But given that the state already has promised to put $25 million toward the cost of building garages on the site, some additional investment in improving access to the Coliseum area could be one good guess.
In the 1980s, one of many — many, many — proposals for the area tried to tackle the challenge of moving people around in an area already chock-a-block with traffic. One of the proposed solutions was a monorail — which, like the one in Disney, could have been fun. That idea, alas, monorailed to nowhere.
So did a proposal by former County Executive Thomas Suozzi in the 1990s to create a walkable public green on a portion of the area. And we all know what happened to developer Charles Wang’s Lighthouse proposal, which was criticized for almost everything, including NOT sufficiently addressing traffic and access issues.
Aside from money, however, the part-time return of the Islanders for the four or five years it will take before construction of their new arena is complete will spur other benefits, too.
On game day the area, once again, will teem with fans, a reminder of what once was when The Barn was home to the Islanders, a nationally acclaimed powerhouse of a club. And more people who otherwise might not visit the area will come to see what’s new.
Still, that activity would halt whenever the Islanders play elsewhere, laying bare the challenge of keeping the area’s economic engine revving with development that makes sense.
Finally getting there — to borrow a hockey phrase — would be a biscuit in the basket.