For Isles Fans, Another Devastating Loss

Nassau residents deliver more heartbreak for a once-proud franchise.

The New York Islanders won't be put on ice today. In 2015? That may be another story.

After nearly two decades of fits and starts, and multiple threats to relocate the team, the downtrodden National Hockey League franchise suffered their latest calamity in their never-ending quest to build that elusive state-of-the-art arena.

Voters soundly rejected a $400 million bond issuance that would have let Nassau County borrow to help build a new rink for the team that once made Long Island the center of the hockey universe.

Those years, when Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies and Billy Smith owned hockey, when Denis Potvin, Tomas Jonsson and Bobby Nystrom were hoarding Stanley Cup championships, seem like a lifetime ago.

From 1980-83, no one beat the Islanders when it mattered. And unless you were one of the lucky or connected ones, a ticket to see the Islanders was difficult to get. Much easier? Predicting a May parade on Hempstead Turnpike.

For four seasons that's exactly what Long Island got, winning their last Stanley Cup in 1983 with a tidy four-game sweep of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and the rest of the favored Edmonton Oilers.

A year later, the Isles would lose to the Oilers in the finals. They haven't been back. In fact, they haven't won a playoff series since 1993. For 18 years, the Isles have been on the short end of the stick, though few defeats have left fans as empty as tonight's loss on a warm August night.

These days, the team has played near the bottom of the standings, both on and off the ice, where attendance has sagged. Two decades of losing will do that. Last season, the Isles drew 453,456 fans, dead last in the NHL. On average, 11,059 fans went to each game, more than 1,000 per game behind the second-worst average, set in Phoenix.

In comparison, the New Jersey Devils, who also play in the shadows of New York City, brought in 605,803 fans, or 14,775 per game. Unlike the Islanders, the Devils have had success in recent years, winning three Stanley Cups since 1995. New Jersey didn't have Mike Milbury nonsensically trading away future all-stars. Their owner also never signed an unproven goalie to a 15-year-long deal.

Oh, and the Devils have a new arena, the Prudential Center, which opened in 2007. The Newark, N.J.-based building boasts being the third-highest grossing arena in the country.

A new arena on Long Island could be just as successful, contend County Executive Ed Mangano and Isles owner Charles Wang. It could bring in the big-name performers who generally skip right past the 18th-largest market in the United States.

The increased attendance would, of course, fill county coffers and ring cash registers at nearby bars and restaurants, where owners have feared the team's relocation.

But county taxpayers made it clear that the Drive for Five, and the increased business, won't be built on their backs.

Tonight, Mangano lost. Like on too many other nights, the Islanders lost too.

Wang said he's "heartbroken."

It's a feeling Islanders fans know all too well.

Daniel Garcia August 02, 2011 at 05:49 PM
If you are saying I've won because I am, along with others are holding our current administration's feet to the fire by demanding a cohesive, complete plan and ample time to read, study and pose questions before being put to a vote. I will say common sense prevailed and the Nassau County resident/voters should be proud of themselves. If you're saying I've won for any other reason, then you haven't been following my comments at all. And, I won't/can't apologize for that.
Daniel Garcia August 02, 2011 at 06:13 PM
Ryan, here's an idea. Go to Kate Murray [the Republican who shot down Wang's Lighthouse project when Suozzi was in office] and tell her now that the Republicans are in charge [and in the majority] to sit with Charles and revive it. It was and still is a great idea, [that she stood in the way of]. By doing so THIS administration will look good and come out smelling like roses, and get itself re-elected next year. I'm all for a Lighthouse style development, so I'll keep an eye on the Patch, News12 and Newsday to see how your conversation with your legislator went.
SeanyA August 02, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Taxes will go up once the Islanders are gone and that disaster of an arena shuts its doors. Good job. Could there have been a better plan? Definitely.
paul.d.spellman August 02, 2011 at 06:21 PM
SeanyA, Did Mangano and company announce a date when the coliseum is closing?
Ryan Cappiello August 02, 2011 at 07:01 PM
The lighthouse plan was actually not feasible plan, due to MANY problems. Wang never accounted for the fact that his new plan would tax the already overtaxed water system in Nassau. When the Town asked him about that he basically replied that the Town or County should build another pump somewhere. He wouldnt do it, he said that someone else should. When it was explained to him that this would cause MASSIVE extra traffic on Hempstead Turnpike, he had no asnwers, and when they asked if he could change his plans a bit ti have an expansion of Hempstead turnpike by adding another lane, he refused. His plan also required traffic releif by having garden city raise the train tracks off the ground. Garden City has resisted that plan forever, and they were not liking this plan to begin with, they would never do anything to help it go through. Basically, the plan was good for Wang, good for the people in charge, AWEFUL for the Town of Hempstead. When the town told him to scale it down, he said no. So it wasnt the town. Kate Murry did her duty to her consituants when she killed it. This new plan was good for EVERYBODY. It kept tax revenue in the county, created jobs, updated a blight on the county, and would bring in business. But instead, because the ABLI and J Jacobs didnt get their way, they spent weeks lieing to people and killed it.
SeanyA August 02, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Well if the main tenant is gone, how can they make up for those dates? Wang has been pumping cash into the arena to keep it going. I'm pretty sure that's going to stop. Who is going to take care of the arena? Its not getting anywhere close to the # of events other arena's are getting. What then genius?
LIer4LIfe August 02, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Sad we bicker amongst ourselves as Nassau burns. I see, respect and understand the "NO" side. I hope that they can see the sides of the yesses. Yes, Nassau politics has been an issue, yes Charles Wang is a businessman who is trying to make a proft. However, I will argue that Wang went above and beyond. He has lost a tremendous amount of money, dealt with the politics promising to keep the team here, offered to pay for the Lighthouse himself, when he couldnt get a deal he like signed on to the bond referendum which would have benefited all if it profited. The Isles spent the last 5 years building through the draft, and now when they are about to turn the corner this is a devastating blow to fans.
dave August 02, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Lets face it, the fears and spin won over vision and hope for prosperity. I don't even live on LI(but whole family did and some still do) but this defeat sickens me. The islanders were going to be a tenant, not the owner of the proposed arena. Only 30% of the events. It would have been nassau's, not the islanders/wang's. I don't think most of the people who voted no understood this concept. people confused the public build a stadium for one tenant who will have 99.999% of the events vs. building an arena for the whole municipality where many many different events will happen there. Not just the anchor tenant. misguided perception ruled the vote. independents and the opposition who studied this plan had it at $13-58 per year worse case scenario. Well, now those schmucks who we saw interviewed who voted no and complained about how they have to go to a bank for a loan(great comparison, a small private business vs. a county arena), etc. will have to shell out eight times $13-58 every time they will have to go elsewhere to watch the circus, whoever the current pop sensation is, muppets on ice, monster truck, college hoops, etc. And they're taxes are gonna go up anyways, with nothing to show for it. As i said before shortsighted and stupid. That ruled the vote.
paul.d.spellman August 02, 2011 at 07:27 PM
The islanders played on average 42 nights, do you believe that some of those nights cannot be filled with other concerts and shows? How much has Wang pumped into the arena to keep it going? How many events does the coliseum get each year? How many events do other arenas get?
LIer4LIfe August 02, 2011 at 07:30 PM
People heard 'higher taxes" and that was all they needed to hear. So kudos to the "NO" voters who thought it through and reached their conclusions, though they differe from what seemed clear to me. But if it was just because "the politicians are screwing us" .. I don't think that this vote is what will teach them a lesson... I believe yesterday was a day that hurt Nassau much more than Wang or the politicians.
LIer4LIfe August 02, 2011 at 07:32 PM
I hear a lot of dispute on the facts. Here in a nutshell is what I gathered. - $800M in nominal debt payments over 30 years with roughly 460 households, turns into about $58 a year. - The $58 assumed no additional revenue, and was 100% of the financning. $14M guaranteed by Wang plus about $5M from other events brought us to the $13.80 number. This number is fixed and when inflation is considered and growth in households would have less impact. - $16 per year in lost tax revenue if it closes. - $25M in overruns would be paid by Wang. - 11.5% of GROSS revenues to county who will maintain ownership of buidling. - This plus local commercial revenue, jobs, taxes, entertainment value, pride and enjoyment of sports franchise, new businesses (such as the new hotel mentioned) - Compared to Rangers/ Yankees with their huge tax breaks, this was one of the best deals ever in a publicly funded arena. I heard numbers bandied about, skewing all of these numbers. But this is how i read them, and I don't see a better alternative, hope the "NO"s have a solid plan for land that has not been developed for decades, hope someone pops our of woodwork to save us now,
paul.d.spellman August 02, 2011 at 07:33 PM
"I hope that they can see the sides of the yesses", yes what i see is a bunch of "fans" who could not support the team enough to draw more than 11,000 per game who then expected the residents of nassau county to subsidize Mr Wang in his private business and in the fans misguided quest for self worth and then these same fans could not generate enough interest to get more that 69,000 people to vote in their favor Does that about cover it?
hank ratner August 02, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Whether or not this was/was not a good deal for Nassau County, it seems to me that those who came out to vote were really saying enough is enough with our RUNAWAY taxes here on Long Island. How can anyone be blamed for this perspective? Scheduling this important bond issue on the first monday in August also caused many to believe they did not want the public other than interested parties i.e. construction unions to come out and vote. We are being taxed to death and this was probably a reaction to this situation.
SeanyA August 02, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Im glad people came out and voted. I hated the results. Of course I am a fan but I'm also a property owner and concerned with what happens now. I wish I had the facts but I'm going on a feeling that when the Islanders bolt, the coliseum is lost. What quality acts are going top book the coliseum when the garden and the prudential center are so much better. Oh great, the American Idol tour is coming. So many people seemed to base their NO vote on higher taxes. Fair enough, nobody wants that. Did they bother to think about what happens if the Islanders leave, and what happens to the coliseum then? What happens to the lost revenue? Time will tell I guess.
Marilyn August 02, 2011 at 08:03 PM
So shortsighted of the people of Nassau County! Long Island needs jobs and this would create it. The tax issues were minimal compared with other stupid New York State and local taxes that we have added to our tax bills each year. This was a great economically feasible deal.
SLJ August 02, 2011 at 08:05 PM
If you think the NHL cares about Long Island, you don't know much about the NHL. They could care less--Devils just moved into a real nice place, and the Rangers are in the city.
paul.d.spellman August 02, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Marilyn, How many jobs would this referendum have created?
LIer4LIfe August 02, 2011 at 08:12 PM
No animosity, I think Nassau residents spoke loud and clear. I completely respect that people felt they needed to voice their displeasure and we have the right to disagree. IMO however, this was the wrong place to do it since this is the one project that would have benefited us. Everyone sited greedy politicians and business people but what about our beneift? This has been going on for years. The plan was not a panacea but a right step. Now I feel we are regressing, I hope someone has a good plan. I would much rather fight against our tax dollars being spent in upstate NY, or the numerous property tax increases we have received without a word as to where that money went. At least I knew where this was going and that it would be useful. On a personal note as a longtime Islander fan, our only team who's fortunes I have followed in good times and bad, I now have an inkling of how Brooklyn Dodger fans felt
paul.d.spellman August 02, 2011 at 08:17 PM
LIer4Life, Can you honestly say you would be this invested in this proposal if you were not an Islander fan?
Mike Polansky August 02, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Paul -- It would have saved the 2200 Coliseum jobs that will be lost when the Islanders moveinto the new state-of-the-art Arena that will be opening in 2012 in Brooklyn, it would have created 300 (admittedly temporary) construction jobs, it would have created several hundred jobs at the new baseball park, and it would have created an uncountable number of jobs in the businesses that would have developed in the immediate area, as the Nassu Hub became the vibrant thriving County Center that folks with vision want it to be. Sad that politics and downright lies killed it all.
DavidE August 02, 2011 at 08:28 PM
I don't live on LI anymore and I still think that it is completely ludicrous that this was voted down. I think LIer4Life said it just right.....how many times have your property taxes gone up for that revenue to be un-trackable....lost in the ether. You could have tracked your ROI on this venture very easily. Even in Dallas, (where I live now) which is an extremely conservative town voted for a publicly funded hotel and convention center. The people realized that it will attract visitors from other cities, states and countries who will spend money in this town.
Mike Polansky August 02, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Sorry thats 3000 (THREE THOUSAND) construction jobs!
paul.d.spellman August 02, 2011 at 08:42 PM
Mike, Do you really think Jimmy Dolan will let the Islanders play in Brooklyn? They are done, face it now, your lack of support has doomed the team. Why will those 2200 coliseum jobs be lost when the NY Islanders shut down their operations? Uncountable jobs? What businesses would have developed? "Sad that politics and downright lies killed it all." No Wangs failure to hire a winning team and the fans lack of support killed any hope of the Islanders staying on the island
Marilyn August 02, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Mike -- Thank you for answering the question that Paul asked. You took the words right out of my mouth!
paul.d.spellman August 02, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Marilyn, Try this one: What would have made it a "great economically feasible deal."?
LIer4LIfe August 02, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Paul, Thank you for the leading questions with the underlying friendly tone. If the NHL agrees Brooklyn is the best place (which I don't think it is due to arena size) then doesn't matter what Dolan thinks, Islanders are an existing local team. The NHL will make sure to do what is in it's best interests. However, the rivalry is good for the Rangers so he may rather they stay if given the choice. I will reply to your other questions in similar format to what you used. Do you really think the Coliseum will stay open if the Islanders leave? Have you seen the state of the coliseum? Do you believe the Coliseum draws the same quality of acts as it did 20 years ago? Do you think there will be enough revenue to keep it open and keep it repaired? You can draw your own conclusions, but I side with Mike and the many others that there is little doubt what will happen. To your last point, what business will develop if a new coliseum is not built? Nothing has developed there in all this time, I realize it is only Wang's word but he stated that if the new coliseum was built there was a hotel willing to open along with additional restaurants/bars, sports medicine etc. True or not, it seems more plausible if the arena is built than if it is not, agree?
Mike August 02, 2011 at 09:29 PM
Revenue projections were based on an average attendance of 14,500. Have you been to a game lately? They're lucky to get half that, unless the Rangers are in town of course. We have a few years left and I'm sure something will get worked out by then. No need to panic. The Islanders aren't going anywhere.
Tideline August 02, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Mike, I said two things all along, their projections numbers for everything were B.S. and thye would be defeated. Mangano is not in touch with how fed up with the taxes the people of Nassau are. Here is the next prediction: Mangano will be a one termer. LOL. BTW, anyone seen Eric N. around lately ? Bha, hahahah
paul.d.spellman August 03, 2011 at 07:28 AM
LIer4Life, The islanders cannot fill an arena in their own backyard, will they really be able to fill one in the Ranger's backyard? Do you have definitive information that the coliseum will be closing?- anything else is conjecture and mostly based on comments and thoughts of depressed Islander fans who have a somewhat humorous sense of self worth that they tie to a business. What is specifically wrong with the coliseum that would prevent you from going to see a concert there? If a band was playing one Friday in the garden and the next in the coliseum, which would be more convenient for you and most of the other 1.3Million residents of long island to attend? Which would you choose?(Insert your cheesy "If the islanders leave I am never going to the coliseum" comment here) The acts will go where they make money and the people will go where it is convenient for them to see them. New Business, you do realize that any money spent at these new businesses will be just another dollar not spent someplace else. case in fact the hotel, anyone that wants to stay at a hotel goes to the Marriott, if the new hotel opens, the Mariott will see a drop in business followed by a drop in employment. To try to say there will be all this "new" business if farcical
Stephen Humenesky August 03, 2011 at 12:05 PM
How about this plan? Raise the season ticket prices on the islanders games to cover the cost of the new arena


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