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New Coliseum leaseholder gets break on rent

Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on June 16.

Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on June 16. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Nassau County has agreed to let the new leaseholder of Nassau Coliseum off the hook from paying rent until at least the summer in a deal that also guarantees that the Islanders can use the arena if needed during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The lease amendment, which requires approval by the Nassau County Legislature, calls for rent relief that continues until six months after the state lifts all restrictions on arena events.

Under the current lease, Nassau County collects more than $4 million in annual rent from the Coliseum leaseholder.

"This agreement recognizes the impact of COVID on Coliseum operations and the surrounding development," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. "That impact includes lost revenue and lost time."

The new leaseholder, Nassau Live Center LLC, headed by Nick Mastroianni II, has not paid rent since taking over in August after Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov had shuttered the building and walked away from $100 million in debt.

Mastroianni was next in line to take control of the lease because he had orchestrated the loan for the Coliseum’s 2015 renovation.

Mastroianni's Jupiter, Fla.-based company, U.S. Immigration Fund, raised $100 million from 200 Chinese investors through a federal program that provides visas in exchange for financing job-creating projects in the United States.

USIF is not affiliated with the federal government.

"We are all trapped by the pandemic," Mastroianni said in a text message. "We’re just trying to find a path forward. … We’re just trying to find out how to put things back into perspective and have a normal life."

Nassau Live Center has not yet paid the contractually obligated rent, because the county agreed in August to give Mastroianni three months to assess the future viability of the arena. County officials also required him to submit a plan for the Coliseum's future.

The deadline for Mastroianni to file his plan for the arena was Wednesday. But with big live events prohibited during the coronavirus pandemic, the county negotiated a lease amendment that, like the rent relief, gives Mastroianni until six months after the state lifts restrictions on arena events to submit his plan for the Coliseum's future.

The amendment is expected to go before the Republican-controlled Nassau County Legislature next month.

"This extension coupled with the suspension of rent payments in recognition of the economic impact of the pandemic, will give Nassau and the HUB Team the opportunity to plan for the future, post-COVID, when the entertainment industry restarts," Curran said.

Among the proposals pitched to Mastroianni was to downsize the arena into a 5,000-seat music venue that would be operated by the arena management company Oak View Group. OVG also is a part owner and operator of the Islanders' new arena, UBS Arena, that is under construction at Belmont Park.

UBS Arena is slated to open in November 2021.

Nassau officials say the extension of the deadline for Mastroianni to submit his plan will allow him to better evaluate the impact UBS Arena will have on the Coliseum.

The lease amendment also would ensure that Mastroianni makes the Coliseum available to host Islanders games early next season even without revenues from fans, if the state and the National Hockey League agree to the arrangement.

The NHL, which has targeted the start of the season for Jan. 1, has not yet decided whether teams will host games at their home arenas or instead have them play in "bubble" cities, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said this week.

This coming season is slated to be the Islanders’ last at the Coliseum before moving to UBS Arena.

Curran has said she's made it a priority to ensure the Coliseum remains a viable option for hosting the team.

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