Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano tapped Forest City Ratner to redevelop Nassau Coliseum and the 77-acre surrounding area, capping months of developers lobbying for the right to put their stamp on the county’s economic center.
The long-awaited announcement Thursday offered a glimpse of what the future may look like for the 40-year-old Uniondale arena before the lease moves to the Nassau legislature for approval. Forest City Ratner beat out Madison Square Garden Co. The two were the finalists of four bidders.
“I truly wish I could engage in both proposals here,” Mangano told reporters during the news conference at his Mineola office, noting that both finalists were qualified but Forest City offered the county a minimum $195 million over a 34-year lease versus $112 million offered by MSG. He emphasized that there will be no taxpayer money spent on the project.
Forest City Ratner plans to turn the aging facility into a 13,000 seat arena, plus add an outdoor amphitheater, movie theater and a retail area. The project is estimated to cost $250 million.
MSG had proposed a $250 million project that included an entertainment district and other attractions, including bowling, billiards and restaurants.
Mangano said the Forest City proposal offers the “best opportunity for Nassau County, the best opportunity for our residents.”
Forest City had wooed the coliseum’s anchor tenant, the New York Islanders, to the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, starting when the NHL team’s current lease is up in 2015, although it is unclear if the team will move early.
Under the deal, Forest City has proposed allowing the Islanders to play a half dozen games per season at Nassau Coliseum. The Brooklyn Nets, who also call Barclay’s home, may also play some at the coliseum.
After several failed attempts to redevelop the Nassau Coliseum himself, Islanders owner Charles Wang announced last October that he would move the team to Brooklyn.
Mangano said the project is planned in three phases: Renovating the coliseum, building up the plaza and then deciding what to do with whatever land is leftover from the first two phases.
“The fact that they didn’t give away development rights is key,” Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, said of the possibilities in the third phase.
“I congratulate Bruce Ratner on his winning bid, and look forward to reviewing the details of his proposal,” said Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), the Democratic legislative minority leader. ” With so much opportunity already lost at this site, it is imperative that we ensure any new development maximizes the potential benefits for Nassau residents.”
Kimberly Kerns, a spokeswoman for MSG, said in a statement that the company’s leadership is disappointed but “not at all surprised given the history of this project.”
“We continue to believe that Madison Square Garden’s proposal, expertise and proven track record represent the best and most realistic opportunity to revitalize the Nassau Coliseum,” she continued. ” We remain deeply supportive of the efforts to create a rich and vibrant destination for all Long Island residents, and sincerely hope that, regardless of today’s decision, Long Island ultimately gets the world-class destination it deserves.”