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
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
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,
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
Beneath the hotel would be luxury condominiums ranging from 2,000 to 5,000
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
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.
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
2 AROUND THE ARENA
Widened concourses would accommodate shops, restaurants, bars, lounges and
convention halls. High-definition video and audio systems would broadcast
3 IN THE STANDS
Upgrades include ergonomic seats with more legroom and a new video and sound
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.
Exhibits would showcase local marine life.
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