Nassau Coliseum Renovation, Event Plans Touted

Forest City Ratner rendering
A rendering of what Forest City Ratner's redeveloped arena would look like at Nassau Coliseum site.
A rendering of what Forest City Ratner’s redeveloped arena would look like at Nassau Coliseum site.

Boxing, college basketball, minor-league hockey, Brooklyn Nets practice and six New York Islanders games are among more than 300 annual events planned for Nassau Coliseum, said officials tapped to redevelop the arena.

The collaboration of sports, entertainment and real-estate leaders teased out those and other details of their plans during their victory lap press conference held at center ice in Uniondale on Friday, a day after Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano picked Forest City Ratner’s $229-million privately funded redevelopment proposal over The Madison Squad Garden Co.’s.

“In planning to reintroduce the revitalized Nassau Coliseum … we will define its status with two major runs,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets and Barclays Center, both co-owned by Ratner. “A historic closing and opening by a world-class artist perfectly suited for the occasion like what Jay Z’s opening eight shows did for Barclays Center.”

That act will be announced in the coming weeks, but observers pointed to the biggest clue, the Billy Joel banner hanging from the rafters touting eight sold-out coliseum concerts in 1998. Mangano also said Joel called to congratulate him on the arena decision.

“If Jay Z was here, I’m sure he’d say the coliseum has 99 problems, but today it has none,” Mangano joked of the rapper and founder of Roc Nation, an entertainment company that is also partnering in the venture along with concert promotion firm Live Nation. Jay Z was busy performing in Miami.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, who many hockey fans blame for the Islanders’ moving to Brooklyn in 2015 after nixing The Lighthouse Project mixed-use development proposed by team owner Charles Wang, said the new proposal should move through the town board more quickly this time.

Chris Charlier, chairman of the board of the Brooklyn Nets, noted the historical significance of the NBA team returning to practice and play a preseason game at the coliseum, their first home in 1972.

“It’s only fitting that we’re here to re-launch the arena,” he said.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders’ American Hockey League affiliate, are also slated to play at the coliseum. Deals are additionally in the works with the universities of Kentucky and Michigan to bring top college basketball programs to the arena. World Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion Bernard Hopkins, who’s been promoting boxing at Barclays, said he looks forward to doing the same at the coliseum as well.

Bruce Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, said the re-imagined coliseum plaza will feature more than a half dozen restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie theater, a Fillmore club with capacity for 2,000 and a grassy outdoor amphitheater that will double as an ice rink in winter. A veterans’ memorial will also be on site.

“We’ll make this place a bit more theatrical,” Ratner said, noting that the structure has “good bones” and sight lines that will carry over when it’s reduced 2,000 seats to 14,500, same as Barclays. “We can get people to play here that might not ordinarily.”

If the 34-year lease is approved by the county legislature, which is planning to hold hearings on the issue, construction is forecast to begin in the summer of 2015 and take two years to complete.