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Restaurateurs, music moguls push Coliseum

Randy Jackson of the band ZEBRA speaks out

Randy Jackson of the band ZEBRA speaks out in support of a new area. (July 19, 2011) Credit: ULI SEIT

Restaurant owners and music promoters warned Tuesday that they would lose thousands of dollars in business if a new Nassau Coliseum isn't built and the existing arena closes.

At a news conference at the Coliseum, Brian Rosenberg, who heads the Long Island Restaurant Association, pointed to the scheduled Rihanna performance Tuesday night.

"All the restaurants in this area will be busy, will be packed," said Rosenberg, who owns Sugar Dining Den and Social Club in Uniondale. "That means jobs."

The group used the news conference to urge a "yes" vote on an Aug. 1 referendum on whether to borrow up to $400 million for a new arena and a minor league ballpark.

County officials say the Coliseum employs more than 2,000 people and brings in some $243 million in direct and indirect revenue each year. The New York Islanders, the arena's primary tenant, could leave when their existing lease expires in 2015. The business groups said Tuesday that at that point, the Coliseum likely would shut down.

Rosenberg said if the Coliseum closes, Long Island residents will have to go into Manhattan for big shows. That lost income would exceed the debt service on the proposed bond, he and others said.

The county's Office of Legislative Budget Review has estimated that the borrowing, plus interest and other costs, could amount to more than $800 million. That would cost the average homeowner an additional $58 in taxes per year. However, county officials say the millions of dollars in sales tax and other revenue that a new arena will generate will more than cover the debt, offsetting any tax increase.

"Try going into the city and see what it costs," Rosenberg said. "Your parking alone will cost more than $58."

Randy Jackson, the guitarist and lead singer for the local rock band Zebra, said he performed at shows at the Coliseum twice in the early 1980s.

"I know how important Nassau Coliseum is to Nassau County," said Jackson, of South Setauket. He also cited a bonus for young residents with potential music careers.

Would-be Long Island musicians, he said, "look at Nassau Coliseum as the place they aspire to get to."

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