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Nassau Coliseum would become music venue under new partnership

An aerial view of NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum

An aerial view of NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum in April 2017. Credit: ALL Island Aerial/Kevin P. Coughlin

The owners of the Islanders are partnering with Oak View Group on its proposal to downsize the Nassau Coliseum into a music theater once the Islanders move to UBS Arena at Belmont Park next year, Oak View Group Chief Executive Officer Tim Leiweke said.

Leiweke called the addition of New York Arena Partners, the consortium of sports executives behind the $1.5 billion Belmont arena project, a boon to Oak View Group’s Coliseum pitch because the partnership would provide the nearby arenas with “synergy” in bookings, marketing and sales.

New York Arena Partners consists of Islanders owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky,  Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon as well as the Oak View Group.

The bolstered Coliseum bid came as the arena’s new leaseholder, Nick Mastroianni II, said Tuesday he was beginning to hold internal meetings, “to make some decisions and hopefully take a direction” on the future of the Coliseum.

Mastroianni, a Jupiter, Fla.-based businessman, struck a deal with Nassau last month to take over control of the Coliseum after the former leaseholder, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, shuttered the venue indefinitely and walked away from the remaining $100 million in debt.

In 2015, Mastroianni’s company, U.S. Immigration Fund, orchestrated a $100 million loan for the Coliseum’s $180 million renovation from 200 Chinese investors through a federal program that provides visas in exchange for financing job-creating projects.

The county lease allowed Mastroianni, as the lender, to step into the role of leaseholder.

“We are getting our arms around everything so we have a full understanding of the operations,” Mastroianni said. He declined to comment about Oak View Group’s proposal for downsizing the Coliseum, saying it was too soon to discuss future possibilities publicly.

Mastroianni has until next month to submit a plan to Nassau County detailing the future operations of the Coliseum, with the likelihood that the county will in turn renegotiate the financial terms of the arena lease initially negotiated with developer Bruce Ratner in 2013.

“The county gave our new tenant 60 days to come up with a plan for sustained Coliseum operations and we are glad that active discussions are taking place with Oak View Group and other potential operators,” said Evlyn Tsimis, deputy county executive for economic development.

Since the Coliseum reopened in 2017 following an 18-month renovation, the 14,500-seat arena has been operated by Anschutz Entertainment Group. That company, AEG, merged last year with rival arena operator SMG to form what is now known as ASM Global.

"ASM has a long history at Nassau Coliseum and continues to be very actively involved during the transition," ASM chief commercial officer Richard Krezwick said.

"Our focus is on working hard every day to accommodate the needs of the U.S. Immigration Fund, Nassau County, the Islanders and RXR,” Krezwick said.

The county said Mastroianni agreed last month to retain ASM Global on a month-to-month deal, in the event the arena is allowed to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic before Mastroianni decides its long-term fate. Any change to the lease that comes after an operator is chosen will require approval by the Nassau County Legislature.

As the Coliseum’s new leaseholder, Mastroianni also inherited contractual partnership rights on the proposed Nassau Hub development with Scott Rechler’s RXR Realty.

Mastroianni said he and Rechler will be “working closely together" on how the Coliseum best fits in the HUB development plans.

Leiweke has said he was encouraged by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to be “part of the solution” at the Coliseum and has in turn pitched the county, Mastroianni and Rechler on turning the facility into a music-focused venue with about half its current capacity.

“Our concept is, what if we create one of the best and busiest music theaters in all of the country?” Leiweke said. “It is the hole in the marketplace on Long Island and we see it could become a complement to Radio City Music Hall.”

Inclusion of the Islanders in Leiweke’s Coliseum bid adds the potential for some awkwardness if Mastroianni ultimately were to choose another operator.

That manager then would be in position to run the facility during the Islanders’ send-off season before the team leaves to operate a competing arena at Belmont.

“Do you really want to put us in a position where we've got to go compete with the Nassau Coliseum and you want us to play in the Nassau Coliseum for that last year?” Leiweke asked. “That makes no sense.”

Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky has said he was “1,000 percent” confident the Islanders will play the 2020-21 season at the Coliseum before moving into UBS Arena.

Tsimis said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran “has made it a priority to work toward having the Isles play at the Barn until their new Belmont home is ready.”

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