Winners and Losers in Nassau Coliseum Redevelopment Deal

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.

Forest City Enterprises may have beaten The Madison Square Garden Co. for rights Thursday to renovate Nassau Coliseum, but with so many stakeholders, the scorecard runs longer than the Islanders championship-less streak.

The long-awaited decision that followed a decade of failed attempts at rebuilding the 40-year-old Uniondale arena still requires the dysfunctional county legislature to approve the lease amid the unpredictability and heightened partisanship of looming local elections.

But, with the clock running down to the 2015 expiration of the current lease with management company SMG and the New York Islanders, which announced last fall the NHL team is moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn—also owned by Forest City—urgency is on the latest proposal’s side.

Assuming the latest coliseum redevelopment plan doesn’t go the way of failed mini-city dubbed The Lighthouse Project or $400 million in borrowing to rebuild the arena that voters rejected in a 2011 referendum, here’s the winners and losers as the proposed Nassau Events Center moves forward.

Bruce Ratner
The executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies and minority owner of the Brooklyn Nets clearly seized the day by convincing Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano to agree to the 34-year lease less than a year after Ratner lured the Islanders, the coliseum’s main attraction, to his new venue in Brooklyn.

James Dolan
The head of MSG and Cablevision whose family also owns the Knicks and Rangers—respective rivals to the Nets and Islanders—missed a golden opportunity to solidify his Long Island monopoly after Mangano said his company’s proposed lease was too stingy with its county cut of the revenue. But is it as bad as hiring Isiah Thomas?

Hofstra University/Nassau Community College
The two higher education institutions that border the 77-acre coliseum property are destined to get a real college downtown of retail and restaurants if the outside of the arena is developed as planned, instead of students and faculty having scattered Hempstead Turnpike establishments as their main options.

Fine Dining Enthusiasts
Among MSG’s team of partners in their proposal was The Cordish Companies, which planned—among other arena-adjacent entertainment ideas—to bring to Long Island the region’s first restaurant led by world-renowned French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, widely considered one of the top 10 chefs in America.

Islanders Fans
Die-hard fans will eventually have to take the Long Island Rail Road to Brooklyn to see their team play, but under the winning proposal, at least there will be six Isles’ games at the coliseum—four during the regular season and two pre-or-post season. So tailgate parties on the turnpike may just be rare and not totally a thing of the past.

If the deal falls through and the coliseum is abandoned after the Islanders leave, the concrete wasteland in the center of the Nassau Hub—the area surrounding the arena that generates 70 percent of county tax revenue—would blow a massive hole in both the county budget and that of the Uniondale School District.

County legislators are expected to demand hearings be held on the proposal, meaning that—like most everything that has to go before the legislature—there is a lot more arguing to come on this issue, which is all but certain to become fodder in Mangano’s re-election campaign.

Newsday Reporters
Recall how the Dolans cracked down on snarkiness among sports writers at LI’s lone daily newspaper after the family that owns the Knicks and Rangers took over? Now imagine how many more hoops the paper’s news staff would have to jump through when reporting on the Island’s largest and frequently newsworthy sports complex.

Press Reporters
We had some fun calling Newsday out for failing to disclose the Dolan’s campaign contributions in their recent story on Forest City’s political spending. Imagine what an amazing new target the Press would have had if Newsday endorsed Mangano after the county executive handed their owners the real estate deal of a lifetime.