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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Mitchel Ideas Emerge

The 67-acre Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, one of Nassau’s lower-profile recreational sites, may soon be home to privately financed facilities which could draw crowds and generate tax revenue.

Two developers responded recently to the county’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for new construction on comparatively small parts of the Complex and the Mangano administration is reviewing both of them this month.  The county executive will choose one, and then ask the county Legislature to review, and then approve, the favored proposal. 

Peter Zaratin and Mitchell Rechler want to build on 75,600 square feet, equal to a little less than two acres, what would be the largest indoor sporting and exhibition center on Long Island.  The Zaratin/Rechler plan also calls for a new 90,000 square foot outdoor stadium, featuring a synthetic turf field that could host soccer, lacrosse, and football games while also seating 3,000 spectators.  Zaratin, president of the Long Island Roughriders soccer team, told Nassau in the RFP that the Roughriders’ home field would move to the Uniondale Complex from St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, if this concept won county approval and came to fruition.  

Meanwhile, Nassau County Sports & Events, LLC, a group of investors led by Mickey Blum, outlined in their RFP response plans for a 105,676 foot indoor facility, with more than half (60,000 square feet) of the building’s footprint set aside for trade shows, exhibition space, basketball and volleyball courts, a rock climbing wall, and a members-only gym and fitness studio.  The balance of the space would house an arcade, batting cages, laser tag, a café and retail store, and party/meeting rooms.  The Nassau County Sports & Events proposal is expected to create 50 full-time jobs and, like the Zaratin/Rechler idea, sales tax revenue for the county

The county-owned Mitchel Athletic Complex is situated to the west of the Nassau Coliseum, separate and apart from the 77-acre, county-owned land known as the Nassau Hub.

In the county’s RFP, Nassau said it will consider leasing the relevant parts of the 67-acre Complex property to the successful bidder for a period of up to 20 years.  No matter how events unfold with regard to the Public Indoor Recreation & Exposition Facility idea, Nassau has stated it will retain complete control over the Complex’s existing outdoor stadium, the county’s Rifle and Pistol Range, and the Complex’s four softball fields.

Moreover, in recognition that it is sales taxes, and not property taxes, which are the primary source of county governmental revenue, the RFP stated that “the Selected Proposer will not be required to pay the county portion of any real estate taxes on the Site.”  I anticipate this passage will become a point of contention as the process continues.  Those opposing new construction at the Mitchel Athletic Complex will almost certainly insist that the eventual developer pay all county-related property taxes on the land upon which they will be operating, even though the developer will be compensating the county with rental payments. This line of attack may be effective initially but, once the public realizes that more sales taxes revenues and new jobs are at stake, I expect the pro-development forces to prevail.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net