Bettman said he spoke with Islanders owner Charles Wang recently and had no progress to report. "There's a new county executive, very nice guy, but he needs to get up to speed, which is unfortunate because Charles has now been at this for eight or nine years," Bettman said in a discussion with sports editors from around the country in Manhattan. "I don't think that anybody with the Islanders could've imagined that they'd still not have any answers. Hempstead hasn't done anything but elongate the process, and his [Wang's] attitude at this point is: 'I've done everything I can, and at some point they've got to come to me.' If not, he'll start looking at his options on Long Island first to see what he can do, but the club has to have a new arena."
None of the parties had spoken publicly about the sprawling project since October, but Bettman's remarks sparked strong responses. Town of Hempstead spokesman Michael Deery said Bettman's comments on development of the property are inaccurate.
"The town has tried to convince Islanders ownership for years to prioritize the refurbishment of the Coliseum and get a shovel in the ground on a beautiful new building," he said. "Unlike the five other metropolitan-area professional franchises that opened magnificent new facilities in the past year, Mr. Wang has tied the Coliseum's future to the construction of a mini-city along Hempstead Turnpike.''
The town, he said, is working on "a blueprint for development at Nassau's Hub and intends to consider the plan before the start of the next hockey season."
The town is focused on "reasonable and sustainable development at the site and is committed to keeping the Islanders here."
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who took office in January, has spoken with Wang, said Brian Nevin, Mangano's senior policy adviser. He said the county "has not amended or withdrawn its support of the Nassau Coliseum project but rather is supporting Hempstead's sensible efforts to identify and jump-start acceptable levels of development."
Mangano "is focused on job creation as well as retention of our Islanders," Nevin said. The county has received several inquiries regarding development of this property, he said, and hopes "solutions to this project will be arrived at by the end of the year."
Bettman did not dispute that one possibility for relocation is a Flushing Meadows tract adjacent to Citi Field that apparently will be up for bid this summer.
Wang has "invested many millions of dollars in trying to get the Lighthouse going," Bettman said. "There's a reality to this: The cost of the arena has only gotten more expensive and there's either four or five years left [on the lease] . . . but the team isn't staying in that arena any longer than it has to."