The $229 million proposal to renovate the Nassau Coliseum moved forward Monday with the unanimous approval of the county lawmakers' finance, rules and economic development committees, which sent it to the full legislature for a vote Sept. 23.
"I am very pleased to be a part of the revitalization of the Nassau Coliseum. It is a remarkable opportunity for the people of Nassau County to have an exciting entertainment venue at no cost to the taxpayer," said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).
The proposal calls for a 49-year lease with developer Bruce Ratner, who will renovate the arena and transform its surrounding plaza into a retail and entertainment district. Ratner's company, Forest City Ratner Cos., developed the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The deal for the 77-acre Coliseum site must now be approved by the full legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state agency with financial oversight of the county.
Ratner's Coliseum plan calls for a renovated 13,000-seat arena, up to seven restaurants, a bowling alley, movie theater, ice-skating rink, outdoor amphitheater and retail space, as well as a monument to Nassau veterans costing at least $1 million.
Despite voting for the proposal, Democrats expressed some concerns about it.
"We're concerned about the contract language which allows for as long as five years to begin construction," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport). "We'd prefer to see a shorter time frame so we can get men and women to work sooner. We also want to explore keeping the [New York] Islanders [hockey team] in a revamped Coliseum, at home in Nassau where they belong."
The Islanders are scheduled to leave Nassau in July 2015, when its lease expires.
But there was a lot of discussion about keeping the Islanders, and Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker, speaking for the administration of County Executive Edward Mangano, said they are still working on trying to keep the Islanders in Nassau.
In an interview with Newsday, Islanders owner Charles Wang laughed when asked about the idea that he could break his new lease in Brooklyn and move the team back to Nassau County in the future. He noted that the Isles are still seeking to play six games per year at Ratner's revamped Coliseum after 2015.
"We're not breaking away from [Long Island] in the same sense," he said. "We're going to be playing some games here, our training camp is here. I like to think that it's like living on one block and moving two blocks away. . . . We know we're going to be attracting new fans and the old fans will be able to come and enjoy."
In a prepared statement, Mangano said, "With approval from three Nassau County legislative committees, redevelopment of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum into a world-class sports and entertainment destination is closer to commencement than ever before."