Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Facelift for Sagging Coliseum?

Latest Plan for Nassau Hub Scrubs New Arena

In the most recent twist along the aging Turnpike of dreams turned nightmares, developers -- under the guise of the Association for a Better Long Island ("better" for whom?) -- have proposed not a new arena as home to the NY Islanders, but rather, a facelift for the NHL's oldest building. In addition, the proposal calls for a minor league ballpark as well as retail and recreational space.

Call it Lighthouse Lighter Than Lite!

A facelift for the Coliseum? Not to disparage, but wouldn't that be akin to putting Phyllis Diller under the knife -- yet again?

Raise the roof. Add more seats (as if the view from the current nose-bleed sections wasn't bad enough). Give the place a paint job.

The $346.5 million plan as proferred has yet to be reviewed or commented upon by either the County or the Town of Hempstead, which has jurisdiction over zoning, or by the owner of the Islanders, developer Charles Wang.

Included, in addition to updating the Coliseum and a minor league ballpark, is restaurant space, a 6800 car parking garage, and an indoor ice skating rink. No mention of residential housing, of any kind. [Not that we need housing on Long Island, particularly of the affordable kind!]

What the plan lacks in scope and vision, it makes up for in, um, er, nothing. But for the fact that this so-called sports and entertainment complex (a combination Hooters and Adventureland, minus the rides and the pretty girls) is to be financed privately (rather than by bilking the taxpayers), the latest attempt to reinvent the Hub brings little to the table, and yawns from the masses.

Watch for the "Task Force's" proposal to go nowhere, as the light grows even dimmer in Uniondale.
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From Newsday:

Task force unveils $346.5M Coliseum plan


Architects, engineers, government officials and labor leaders Wednesday unveiled a $346.5 million proposal to renovate the Nassau Coliseum and turn the surrounding 77 acres into a sports-entertainment complex.

But the development, for which the builder would have to secure financing, drew noncommittal responses from key players, including County Executive Edward Mangano, the Town of Hempstead and Islanders owner Charles Wang, who all would have a say in the project's future.

Under the plan, developed by a task force of the Association for a Better Long Island, a private developer would spend $100 million to renovate and expand the existing Coliseum. The height of the arena would increase by as much as 25 feet, and there would be between 17,000 and 20,000 seats -- compared with just over 16,000 now.

The site would include a minor league ballpark, a parking garage with room for 6,800 cars that would join the Coliseum and the Long Island Marriott, a new indoor ice rink for practice and public use, and 70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. West Hempstead architect Angelo Francis Corva, who designed the plan, left about 25 acres on two parcels undeveloped for a future phase.

"It would be an economic boost for Long Island," Corva said. "This is vitality being brought to a site which has none at the present time, which is something we will need."

"The goal is to keep the Islanders" in Nassau, said North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a Democrat and a task force member.

The proposal, which did not mention any specific developers, follows the rejection by Nassau voters on Aug. 1 of a referendum to spend $400 million of taxpayer funds on a new arena and ballpark.

The ABLI, a real estate group, campaigned against the referendum.

Mangano, a Republican, said in a statement: "Everything is on the table. . . . No one has the market cornered on good ideas when it comes to a project of this magnitude."

Mangano added that moving ahead, "I am firmly committed to a process that ensures that whatever path we ultimately take provides the greatest benefit to our citizens, not the greatest profit to a chosen few."

Wang, who has said the Islanders will not play in the current arena after the team's lease expires in 2015, said, "If somebody comes up with anything definitive, we will obviously look at it. I can tell you one thing very definitively. Oct. 8 the puck drops. And we will have a hell of a season."

Hempstead Town spokesman Mike Deery said: "If and when a proposal comes before the town board, we'll review it, consider it and act accordingly."

Town attorney David Levy, a task force member, did not attend the announcement.

Oyster Bay Planning Commissioner Frederick Ippolito, a task force member, took the lead on the plan, bringing in Corva and engineering firm Sidney B. Bowne & Son.

With Robert Brodsky

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