An aerial view of the Nassau Coliseum that opened May...

An aerial view of the Nassau Coliseum that opened May 29, 1972 Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Here's the promise being made to Nassau County residents: a new entertainment arena, retention of a professional sports franchise and smart economic development at the Hub -- and the $400 million that must be borrowed to finance the project comes at no cost to taxpayers.

What's not to like?

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and New York Islanders owner Charles Wang may have to score a double hat trick to deliver on that promise.

But they deserve the chance to try.

There are myriad reasons to support replacing the Coliseum with a modern arena and harvesting taxes and other benefits from the long-fallow 77 acres of county land that surround it. Nassau needs to believe it can have a prosperous and enticing future; the Hub is how it can happen.

In 2007, after five years of trying, former County Executive Thomas Suozzi executed a 99-year lease for the land to Wang for his $2-billion Lighthouse project, a grand plan for a new destination: a public space with luxury and affordable housing, hotels, shops and restaurants. It proposed density and height not seen before in the suburbs, but that's what would have generated the private funding for a new arena. This editorial page strongly and consistently supported that vision and scale. But the Town of Hempstead refused to rezone the land from single-family residential.

Now Wang is back with a new county executive and a new idea: using $350 million in county-backed bonds to replace the aging Coliseum, which opened 39 years ago this month. Only this time the county is broke, with a state control board overseeing its finances. Mangano says the multimillion-dollar debt service would be covered from revenue-sharing with Wang and boosted sales tax. A voter referendum on the issue would also include another $50 million for a minor-league baseball stadium.

The lack of detail in the Wang-Mangano proposal on how taxpayers would be protected from covering any revenue shortfalls limits a precise evaluation of its merits at this time. A lease with Wang has yet to be negotiated, although Mangano promises it by mid-June. An advisory committee chaired by Frank Zarb, who shepherded the county out its last near- bankruptcy more than a decade ago, is only starting its review of whether the deal can fly and whether any development and revenue from the 77 acres is feasible in the near term.

Still, as we repeatedly said the last time a Hub plan was on the table, let's give it a fair shake. Sure, the local economy is still struggling from the current downturn, but there was a lot of pessimism about our future even during the boom. Long Island has to grow; it can't stay in place, and it mustn't slide backward, which losing the Islanders would cause it to do.

It would be a shame if the initial rancorous reaction that washed over the proposal were allowed to drown it. On Tuesday, the legislature will hold a public hearing on Mangano's plan to hold the nonbinding referendum in early August. The timing should be carefully scrutinized.

Mangano's decision to call for a special election this summer does saddle the county with additional costs it wouldn't have if the borrowing issue were instead on the November ballot. That's a big concern, but Mangano says that tab could be kept to a half-million dollars if Albany approves the use of old lever-style machines for the voting.

The county legislature doesn't have the final say on either the referendum or the borrowing. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority -- the state board currently in control of the county -- would have to approve both. So Mangano misstepped by not informing NIFA of the Coliseum plan before he told county leaders and the media; it's always wise to be the first to tell your parole officer what he may not want to hear. NIFA's negative reaction and immediate demands for documentation seemed a little too adversarial.

The referendum Mangano and Wang want is not a legal necessity, but it is a political one. Until the residents of this county let their leaders know whether they want a new arena, the county will continue to be paralyzed about what to do with the Hub. We can't stall our future any longer. hN