Wang supports new arena plan, calls it 'realistic'
It may not be the massive development plan Islanders team owner Charles Wang had originally envisioned, but Wednesday's announcement on a proposal to build a new arena is one he views as a reasonable alternative.
And most importantly, it may be the team's best chance to remain on Long Island.
"I think it’s realistic in terms of today’s climate and so forth. I think when you look at the Islanders -- it's our home, we want to stay here," Wang said after a press conference with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray at Nassau Coliseum.
Mangano and Wang endorsed the referendum -- which will be put to Nassau County voters August 1 -- that will include a new ice rink and minor-league baseball park. Under the terms of the proposal, building would commence next summer, and a new arena for the Islanders would be available by the 2015-16 season. The plan would require $400 million to finance, but Mangano said his intent and revenue-sharing plan was devised to not "cost the taxpayers a dime."
This development comes after years of failed efforts by Wang to personally fund and build the Lighthouse Project, an ambitious plan that included ample residential and commercial additions.
"Everything you do in life, you are going to compromise," Wang said. "First priority is to get a new arena and keep the Islanders. We’re fulfilling that. The second is, build a destination. Something we as Long Island can say, 'This is a great place to live, to work to play and so forth.' We’re going to accomplish that, too."
Wang said he has been speaking with Mangano about this idea for the past 10 months, with discussions heating up over the last 10 days.
"We’re supportive of it. We’ll do everything we can to make it work, get the information out, make people understand what the alternatives are and we’ll keep working at it," Wang said.
Wang has lost millions of dollars as owner of the Islanders, and although he may have been able to recoup some of that with the revenue from surrounding amenities of his Lighthouse Project, he will likely receive significantly less from this deal. Wang will be included in the revenue-sharing aspect of this plan, but to what extent it is not immediately known.
When asked if this news had any impact on his commitment to the ownership of the team, Wang seemed incredulous.
"I've never wavered in my commitment," he said. "Can I have more commitment?"