For better or for worse, the fate of the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum may lie in the hands of developer Bruce Ratner.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announced that Ratner’s development group will release a plan by the middle of 2013 to revamp the aging arena, just weeks after New York Islanders owner Charles Wang announced that his franchise would be leaving the Coliseum for Ratner’s brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“Today we bring Nassau County one step closer to ensuring that the Coliseum becomes an attractive destination for Long Island,” said Mangano at a press conference Nov. 20. “While several Hub development plans have been proposed over the years and failed, the good news is that Bruce Ratner… will build the road map so the Coliseum is positioned to compete for concerts, family shows and expositions, as well as professional and collegiate sports.”
Ratner and Wang are to present a strategic reuse plan for the arena, whose future was cast into doubt when Wang announced plans in October to relocate the Islanders for the 2015 National Hockey League season.
Recent efforts to redevelop the Coliseum and its surrounding real estate have failed due to popular opposition and opposition from the Town of North Hempstead.
Wang’s Lighthouse Project, a proposed $3.8 billion development proposal that included a revamp of the Coliseum, the building of a minor league baseball park and residential construction, was killed by the Town of Hempstead’s zoning board after years of debate. And Nassau voters defeated Mangano’s plan to take out a $400 billion bond to fund arena construction by a double-digit margin in a summer 2011 referendum.
At the press conference, Mangano expressed hope that stakeholders would be able to come to an agreement in the new “post-Sandy era.”
“No one wants to see a darkened Coliseum,” he said.
Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) said he was not given advance notice of Ratner’s selection and cast doubt on the merits of having the Barclays Center’s owner develop a plan for Nassau’s arena.
“It was very much sprung on us, from what I can tell,” Wink said. “What really perplexed me was Bruce Ratner’s involvement, to the extent that Bruce Ratner owns a competing facility that would benefit from less competition.”
Wink said he hoped county officials would remain open to redeveloping the Hub without a sports arena, in light of the Islanders’ departure.
Mangano also said he hopes to avoid a substantial shutdown of the Coliseum for construction after the Islanders leave, citing the damage it could cause to the county’s economic wellbeing.
“This is a process where we look to keep the engine going, albeit a new engine and a different concept as we move forward,” he said.
Mangano tapped Plainview developer Renaissance Downtown to coordinate the development of the 77-acre Hub site.
“Together with Bruce and Charles, [Renaissance’s development team] will create the foundation of innovation, job growth, investment confidence and economic opportunities,” Mangano said. “With a blueprint, we can and will retain concerts, family entertainment and sports in a rejuvenated Coliseum.”
Contracts for the development will be granted through the governmental process after the plans are put forward, said Mangano.
Ratner said his goal was to create an arena that was both attractive to county residents and economically beneficial, and acknowledged that the current site needs “some spiffing up – and maybe more.”
“It needs work. It needs freshening up,” Ratner said of the 42-year-old arena. “The goal would be to make it a 21st century venue.”
The experience of developing the Barclays Center, which opened this fall with Brooklyn Nets home games and a string of sold-out Jay-Z concerts, makes Forest City Ratner Group well positioned to plan the reuse of the Coliseum, Ratner said.
Renaissance Downtown CEO Don Monti said he plans to hit the ground running with Hub redevelopment planning and set a goal of breaking ground during 2013..
“Nassau County will get every ounce of our team’s energy,” said Monti.
Forest City Ratner Companies’ initial reuse plan will be created at no expense to taxpayers and the selection of a developer for the project would be made later by the County, said Ratner.