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Islanders fans to Wang: Scale it down


It's the only way for the Lighthouse Project to work and keep the Islanders here, some of their fans said last night.

"A little good faith on Charles Wang's part so he can get a renovated Coliseum and realize he's not going to get the big towers he wants," said Fred Kopf, a season-ticket holder from Baldwin at Nassau Coliseum with his wife, Terry. "We want them to stay here."

It had been an eventful 24 hours for the Islanders and their bid for a new arena in Wang's and Scott Rechler's Lighthouse development before last night's preseason home opener against the Devils.

Wang and his group took some jabs from Town of Hempstead board members at a public hearing on Tuesday that wrapped just as Wang's team took the ice in Kansas City, where only 9,792 fans turned out for a chance to show the NHL that the city is ready for a team.

There was also the news that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov had agreed to buy an 80 percent stake in the Nets and push through the new arena in Brooklyn, which could be a home for the Islanders not too far away.

"If it's between Kansas City or Brooklyn, I'll take Brooklyn," Bill Leun of North Babylon said. "I don't think [Wang] wants to move them."

The Coliseum wasn't even close to half full for the game with the Devils, the only one at home for the Islanders before their season opener on Oct. 3 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But the vocal die-hard fans came out and said what they wanted. During the national anthem, one fan yelled, "Build the Lighthouse!"

"I still think they can build it, but maybe scale it down a bit," said Jerry Bergold of Plainview, at the game with his 7-year-old son, Michael. "They don't have to build it to a massive extent. Maybe the new Coliseum and a hotel, like what the Patriots just did [Patriot Place in Foxborough]."

The Islanders should at least be in position to gain a few fans after picking John Tavares first overall in June's NHL draft, even though the team has a long way to go to be a playoff contender. "We have to win," Bergold said. "We put a good team on the ice and they can build whatever they want."

Wang's drop-dead date for a decision from the Town of Hempstead is Oct. 3 - the date of the home opener, Tavares' first NHL game and a visit from Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

If Wang doesn't get certainty on the Lighthouse by then, that night's game could be a decidedly unhappy affair.

"No, we're still excited," Terry Kopf said. "That's why we want them to stay."

New York Sports