Yes, we know this is a Rangers-centric site, but I was part of a Q-N-A with Commissioner Gary Bettman this morning and will be excerpting some of the issues here later. But it certainly appears that the Rangers will be visiting the Coliseum many times in the near future.
There's been no public comment for months from Charles Wang, Nassau County or the Town of Hempstead on the Lighthouse Project.
But today, Bettman weighed in and his remarks elicited some pointed comments that don't seem to bode well for the sprawling proposal as it currently exists....
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the Lighthouse Project remains stalled and that an eventual relocation of the Islanders, possibly to Queens, remains firmly on the table.
The commissioner said he had spoken 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. “I don’t think anybody with the Islanders could’ve imagined that they’d still not have any answers. Hempstead hasn’t done anything but continue to elongate the process, and I think Charles' attitude at this point is: ‘I’ve done everything I can, and if they're interested, 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 were 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 advisor, and that 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, speaking to a small group of sports editors in Manhattan, did not dispute that one possibility for relocation is a Flushing Meadows tract opposite Citifield which apparently will be up for bid this summer.
Wang has “invested many millions of dollars in trying to get the Lighthouse going. 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---he’s going to honor his lease, as he expects Nassau County as the landlord to honor the terms---but the team isn’t staying in that arena any longer than it has to.”