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Visions of $200M renovation

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang unveiled his vision

for a $200-million "transformation" of the aging Nassau Coliseum yesterday,

including additional seating, an athletic complex adjacent to the facility and

future plans for a 60-story hotel-condo tower.

"What we are doing here is great for Long Island, great for New York. It

will bring business and jobs to the area and dollars to the county and state,"

said Michael Picker, senior vice president of operations for the Islanders and

the New York Dragons arena football team.

The first phase of the project would lower the Coliseum's floor to add the

additional seats, including 50 new luxury boxes at Row 15, which Picker said

would provide the closest view for luxury-type seating of any facility in the

country. The athletic complex would include an ice rink, basketball, volleyball

and a health club.

The plan calls for construction to begin in 2006 and be completed in 2009.

Most of the heavy work would be done during the summer from June to October

when hockey season starts. The Coliseum would be closed during that time.

Financial details of the proposal, however, were sketchy. Picker said the

overhaul of the Coliseum and construction of the athletic complex would be done

with help from state, the county and Wang. He would not release further

details.

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi would not comment on the proposal and

Islanders spokesman Chris Botta wouldn't comment on the financing. "The deal

isn't done," he said.

By lowering the Coliseum floor, Picker said the facility would increase its

seating from 16,300 to 17,500 for hockey games, could seat 18,500 for

basketball games and 20,000 for concerts. The facility would keep 31 luxury

boxes at the top of the Coliseum, Picker said.

Calling it "The Coliseum At The Lighthouse," Picker said Wang's vision for

the area also includes a second phase, which would develop the 70 acres

surrounding the Coliseum. However, who will develop that area, how it will be

financed, and whether zoning and environmental issues can be addressed remain

uncertain.

Plans for Phase 2 include "The Great Lighthouse," a 60-story building with

a 10,000-square-foot observatory deck with a hundred miles of unobstructed

view. The building is modeled on the ancient "Great Lighthouse" of Alexandria,

Egypt.

Beneath the deck would be the Grand Hotel at the Lighthouse, a five-star,

500-room hotel with four restaurants, ballrooms and sky terraces. The lobby of

the hotel will be on the 40th floor and every room, officials said, will have

"incredible views."

Beneath the hotel would be luxury condominiums ranging from 2,000 to 5,000

square feet.

Picker said there is also a plan to develop "The Residences At The

Lighthouse," which would be "affordable priced," mid-rise rental apartments

that would be connected to the athletic complex and Coliseum.

The delicacy of the plan was borne out yesterday through state and county

officials who had inklings of the plan but were hesitant to comment on details,

worried about upstaging Wang and blowing the deal.

Some state and county officials said they had learned Wang would finance

much of the project himself.

County officials have long said that cash-strapped Nassau, while its

finances are improving, is in no position to provide cash. However, it can

provide the 70 acres around the Coliseum for development.

For months, Wang has made the political rounds, courting Gov. George Pataki

and other Albany lawmakers for state help and holding many meetings with

Suozzi.

He plans to meet with local officials, Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs,

(D-Woodbury) and Minority Leader Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), today to discuss

his plan in detail.

The Suozzi administration has long viewed a Coliseum project as key to the

redevelopment of the central Nassau Hub, which stretches from the EAB Plaza in

Uniondale on the southeast to Roosevelt Field mall on the northwest.

To pull off the second phase of Wang's plan, the county would have some

major hurdles to clear. County officials said that a major transportation

system, which would cost millions, would have to be developed to accommodate

increased use of the area. There are zoning and environmental issues that would

have to be worked out as well.

And Nassau County is still under contract with SMG of Philadelphia, which

manages the Coliseum under a lease that runs until 2015. The company receives

the bulk of revenue from concession stands and luxury boxes, and has management

rights to any facility built on the 70-acre parcel around the Coliseum.

County officials have estimated that it would cost as much as $20 million

to renegotiate the contract or to buy out the lease.

Picker said that officials are speaking with SMG officials and that he

likes the way they manage the current Coliseum.

But he said Wang wants a "different business arrangement" with SMG because

the owner is not receiving any revenues from parking and food.

Staff writer Dionne Searcey contributed to this story.

His game plan

What Charles Wang envisions for the Nassau Coliseum.

Phase 1

The Coliseum's exterior would be refurbished, but the existing foundation would

remain. Inside, the rink would be lowered so the arena "bowl" would extend

deeper into the ground.

1 ON TOP OF THE ACTION

A Stars Bar & Grill suspended from the roof offers a view of the game from high

up.

2 AROUND THE ARENA

Widened concourses would accommodate shops, restaurants, bars, lounges and

convention halls. High-definition video and audio systems would broadcast

information.

3 IN THE STANDS

Upgrades include ergonomic seats with more legroom and a new video and sound

system.

4 WASHROOMS

New areas triple the number of fixtures.

5 VIP SUITES

Fifty new boxes located 15 rows off the ice would allow private parties for 10

to 20 guests.

6 AQUARIUMS

Exhibits would showcase local marine life.

Phase 2

The proposal to develop the areas surrounding the Coliseum hinges on securing

funding as well as zoning and environmental approval.

The Great Lighthouse

The centerpiece 60-story structure is billed as the ''tallest lighthouse in the

world.'' Below that is an observatory deck, a 5-star hotel and luxury

condominiums.

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