In another attempt to keep the Islanders, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is seeking a developer to coordinate the construction of a new or renovated arena, along with housing and retail, on the land around Nassau Coliseum.
But team officials did not return calls for comment, and it remains unclear whether they support Mangano's latest plan. Islanders owner Charles Wang has said his team will not stay in the current arena past 2015, when his lease expires, and that he is evaluating other possible locations.
To jump-start the new arena effort, Nassau County is expected Monday to release a Request for Qualifications seeking a "master developer" for the Nassau Hub property. The winning developer would be required to "immediately begin negotiations" with the Islanders and the arena's management, Pennsylvania-based SMG, the RFQ is expected to say.
The goal, Mangano said, is to make up the difference between what Wang is willing to pay as the Coliseum's tenant and the total price tag of a new or renovated arena. The plan does not detail how much Wang would contribute. No county money is involved, Mangano said.
"There's 10 years of data, there's 10 years of public input, there's 10 years of nos," Mangano said in an interview. "Now's the time for us to come together and collectively end the island of no and go forward with the island of yes. That's what the RFQ is intended to do."
If the Islanders leave, the winning developer would have to come up with an alternative.
Islanders senior vice president Michael Picker did not return calls for comment last week.
In an interview in February, Picker indicated Wang likely would not participate in a bidding process to redevelop the site. A source close to the situation said Friday that the position hasn't changed.
A year ago, in a referendum to build an arena with public funds, the arena's total cost was expected to amount to nearly $800 million -- $350 million for construction, plus interest and fees. At the time, the Islanders guaranteed a minimum payment of $14 million a year over 30 years -- or $420 million total. The referendum failed.
The RFQ, which has a July 30 response deadline, calls for a renovated or new arena for the Islanders -- or another unnamed professional sports team -- as well as convention space, a biotech park, retail and housing. Officials also want a 3,000-space parking garage.
The developer would make money through revenue and rent from projects on the site.
"We don't want to tie anybody's hands," Mangano said. "But at the end of the day, I believe this could really work."
Mangano said plans would have to meet Hempstead's zoning guidelines. Town spokesman Michael Deery said the zoning allows for an arena and enough development to spur economic activity. "We applaud any efforts that embrace these same goals," Deery said.
Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association For a Better Long Island, a development group, said several developers may apply.
"This may be the light at the end of the tunnel after a 20-year saga," he said.
Said Garden City developer Vincent Polimeni: "I'm interested, but it all depends on what the RFQ requires."
Jacobs suggests that the county should earmark $1.5 million in annual entertainment tax, with Wang providing the rest.
Observers said Wang's role remains the big question mark.
Noting the team's 2015 deadline, Durso said: "The ship has not sailed, but it's getting ready to go."