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Islanders to invest $3.5M in Eisenhower facility under deal

The New York Islanders held their first in-season

The New York Islanders held their first in-season practice at Northwell Ice Center in Eisenhower Park on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The New York Islanders would invest $3.5 million in disputed funds from the failed Lighthouse Project into their new Eisenhower Park practice facility while another $1 million would go to improve the ice rink at Cantiague Park, under a deal set for consideration today by Nassau lawmakers.

The measure, which will be voted on by the legislature’s Rules Committee, resolves a nearly decadelong dispute with the county over three $1.5 million payments that Islanders’ owner Charles Wang made to the county to secure exclusive development rights to the 77-acre Nassau Coliseum site.

Wang had planned the $3.8 billion Lighthouse Project, which would have renovated the Coliseum while building thousands of new retail, hotel and housing units on surrounding land. The Town of Hempstead killed the project, citing its density and environmental impact, leaving $4.5 million in escrow.

The disputed funds were set to be used last year by the Islanders to build a new practice facility and corporate office space at Cantiague.

But the county scrapped that plan when Wang won an $8 million cash bid in August to take over the bankrupt Twin Rinks and transform it into the team’s new practice facility. The facility is now known as Northwell Health Ice Center.

The Islanders began playing home games at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center last year. Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner is spending $260.5 million to redevelop the Coliseum and build an adjacent retail and entertainment complex.

The settlement between Wang and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano calls for the Islanders to use $3.5 million to build new locker rooms, a professional training facility and office space at Northwell, which already has two NHL-sized rinks.

As part of the deal, the Islanders will commit to using Northwell as its primary practice and training facility for the next decade, beginning Sept 1. If the team leaves before 2026, the county would receive back amortized amounts for each year, said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.

The agreement also calls for the county to retain $1 million to make improvements at Cantiague, including an extension of the ice rink, Nevin said. The county had originally planned to spend $300,000 to improve Cantiague.

“I am pleased the county and the Islanders reached an agreement that will improve the Eisenhower and Cantiague ice facilities while providing access to NY Islanders practices, expos and autograph signings at their new official practice facility,” Mangano said in a statement.

An Islanders spokesman did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Democratic lawmakers criticized the GOP for putting the agreement on the legislative agenda late Friday afternoon and said it’s unclear if they will vote for the deal.

“Nassau Republicans fail taxpayers when they attempt to rush the process by placing items, like the multimillion-dollar Lighthouse settlement, on the agenda last minute to avoid much needed oversight,” said Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont).

A spokeswoman for Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Twin Rinks opened in 2014 as a highly touted public-private partnership between Nassau and investors including Joel Friedman and brothers Chris and Peter Ferraro, both former NHL players. But construction costs ballooned from an initially estimated $15 million to $52 million, and the owners fell behind on license payments to the county.

Last June, the owners filed for bankruptcy, setting off a public auction for the facility’s assets, including a 30-year license with the county to operate in the park.

Wang sold off a minority interest in the Islanders in 2014 to businessmen Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin. The pair will own a controlling interest in the team beginning next year.

CLARIFICATION: Earlier versions of this story misidentifed the name of the skating facility that went bankrupt. It is Twin Rinks.

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