By Ryan Mojo
Doesn’t it seem like every year a different hockey team threatens to move? In the past 10 years the Sabres, Senators, Thrashers, Oilers, Penguins, and Coyotes have all threatened to move from their respected cities for financial reasons. All these situations have included long legal debates between team owners and local governments. The debates are always about the very best issues in sports, funding new corporate arenas, tax revenue, avoiding bankruptcy… Ya know!? All the things that made you fall in love with sports in the first place.
Now it’s Long Island’s turn at the carousel as the long suffering Islanders are now trying to remodel the Nassau Coliseum, not to mention turn the surrounding area into a state of the art commerce center. This project is being proposed by Charles Wang, the man who turned Computer Associates into a corporate giant, and retired just before his partner Sanjay Kumar was indicted and later charged for fraud and obstruction of justice. In a nutshell, Charles Wang did what George Bluth couldn’t. Despite selling his ownership in CA, he still kept the Islanders. Wang truly cares about the team, and he’s been very active in the organization. Perhaps even too active for a guy whose never even learned how to skate. Despite numerous front office moves that will boggle any hockey fans mind, he has been a terrific owner. And his main goal has always been to keep the Isles on the Island forever. His project, called the Lighthouse, will include a newly renovated coliseum, a minor league baseball park, housing, hotels, shopping center, a fitness center, and a 30 story office building that will resemble a lighthouse and is an expensive and bold undertaking much of which Wang and his partners will cover. Nassau County has been pushing this project and has given Wang their full support. However the Town of Hempstead is being a true pain in Wang’s ass, specifically town supervisor Kate Murray who has expressed concerns about infrastructure and traffic related implications of the project .
Until recently she has been absent from any meetings or events related to the lighthouse and always declining to comment on the positive impact it could have on the town. She made a huge beef about the environmental assessment and slowed negotiations to snail-speed because she doesn’t think it’s that important. Government officials are never sports fans in these situations, that’s a fact. Lately she has started to get more involved in the negotiations, but she really needs to give this thing her complete attention if it is ever going to get done. As for Wang and the Islanders, they have to have plans in place regardless of what the town does. This season the Islanders will play a few pre season games in Kansas City. KC has been jonsin’ for a hockey team for a long time, They tried hard to get the Penguins, they will trey even harder this time to get the Islanders. Wang reportedly looses an average of 23 million dollars a season as owner of the Isles. Crappy team, crappy arena, and crappy attendance will do that. But he still has no plans of selling the team as of now, and he is 100% dedicated to keeping the team here. The lighthouse project is simply the only way he can move forward with the franchise on Long Island without continuing to lose millions. Islander’s fans are very lucky to have an owner like Wang, because if anybody else owned the team, they would already be gone.
The Islanders might suck, and have sucked for a long time. But the potential is still there. And Long Island supports this team well. When the Islanders have a shot, there are very few places like the coliseum. But this is the first time a New York team has considered leaving since the Giants and Dodgers. They left because of City officials and old stadiums that were infested with rats, sort of like the Islanders and the coliseum. The saving grace in this situation is that the Islanders are locked into the Coliseum until 2015, a lease extension that Wang himself pushed for when he took over the team in 2000. There is time to get this Lighthouse deal done, but it would save everyone involved a lot of stress and money if it gets done soon. These things do have a knack for lingering until the last minute. In my personal opinion, the Islanders need to stay on Long Island. They are part of the local fabric; everyone on Long Island has fond memories of the Coliseum. I believe Jordan and Brandon saw their first pair off boobs at an Islander’s game, and I was almost killed by a drunken tattooed biker for wearing a Rangers jersey. We can’t lose the Islanders. This story is still yet to fully develop, is still very early in the process, but it will be gaining more and more attention as we creep towards fall. But this is Long Island. Even if the negotiations go well and the ground breaking commences, the whole thing can blow up in their face once a couple of LI housewives complain about the increased traffic on Hempstead Turnpike. If you thought the town supervisor was a bitch, then your in for a real surprise.
I’ll be checking back in soon Sports Fans, don’t you worry!