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MSG Coliseum Plan A ‘Risk-Free Solution’

MSG feels industry ties, experience

makes proposal the top choice

Redevelopment, entertainment and job creation. These are a few of the many aspects the Madison Square Garden Company’s bid is offering to revamp Nassau Coliseum site. But so are Forest City Ratner, developer Ed Blumenfeld and New York Sports LLC.

The battle for the Nassau Coliseum property is picking up steam with one month to go before Nassau County selects one of the four proposals submitted by the groups. With the New York Islanders set to leave Long Island in 2015, the space would resemble a ghost town if left vacant.

MSG is looking to spend $250 million if its plan is approved by the county, which President and CEO Hank Ratner calls a “risk-free” solution. The $229 million project by Bruce Ratner’s (no relation) team is technically cheaper and is the most comparable plan to MSG, with a 13,000 seat arena or, for smaller events, 4,000.

The coliseum would seat 14,500 under MSG’s plan, but could reduce the capacity to 1,700 seats to accommodate smaller productions. While he wouldn’t reveal which sports team would call the coliseum its permanent home, Ratner said the Knicks and Rangers would practice in Nassau occasionally. MSG also owns the WNBA’s New York Liberty and minor league hockey team Hartford Wolf Pack.

“Most of that capacity is coming from behind the stage in the upper deck so when you’re playing a concert, we’re still pretty much in the configuration the coliseum used to have because the seats we’re getting rid of seats that were behind the stage,” Hank Ratner said.

A second entertainment complex dubbed “Long Island Live” would house a 5-acre entertainment district featuring restaurants, clubs, sports bars, leisure activities as well as an MSG Sports Zone, which would have a restaurant and sports bar. MSG memorabilia would be on display.

Ratner is touting MSG’s track record for redoing arenas and entertainment destinations. He feels MSG’s melting pot of industry contacts make it a match made in developmental heaven.

“We take venues and we make them great,” Ratner stated. “We took Radio City Music Hall and restored it to its original grandeur from when it opened in the ’20s. We took the Beacon Theater and did the same thing. We’re in the last phase of our Madison Square Garden transformation project and we’re in the beginning of our revitalization of the Forum in Inglewood [California].”

Both Forest City and MSG plans could create a monopoly on the New York City/Long Island entertainment market. With the Barclays Center or the Garden, coupled together with a Long Island location should either be selected, either Ratner could attain the stranglehold.

“We trying to do exactly the opposite,” said Ratner of MSG. “Our goal is to make the coliseum as competitive as possible. Our problem at MSG is that there are not enough nights in the year to book all the acts that want to play the Garden.”

While he is not ignoring the other three plans on the table, Ratner said the Garden’s plan is “the only option” a “no-brainer.”

“Selecting us is the only option… This is exactly what we do,” said Ratner.

Ratner claims the reduction in seating, along with 10 acres set aside and reducing parking spots to 5,000, traffic issues would decline.

“We all know that traffic around the coliseum but by reducing the 10 acres, you go and reduce the traffic. The entertainment district, it’s not like you go and there’s a game at 7 and it ends at 9:30. There’s events going on throughout the day. There’s never that crush of traffic.”

Currently, the coliseum parking lot resembles gridlock before and after events. Traffic expert Mayer Horn, of Greenman-Pederson Inc. in Babylon, has not reviewed the coliseum proposals, but said measures could be taken to remediate traffic problems unrelated to road redirections and renovations.

Horn thinks public transportation incentives to encourage people to take mass transit could decrease traffic. While any development could have traffic impacts, Horn says the threat of congestion can be mitigated if managed properly.

“It comes down to how you manage [traffic],” said Horn. “For example, to the extent that bus service provides nonstop bus service from some park/ride lots from railroad stations, etc. If fares are included in ticket prices, but parking is not…there are various ways to incentivize it. Buses themselves can be various types, like party buses or coach-type buses.”

Ratner isn’t ready to talk about traffic yet. “We’re trying to respect the county process and have conversations with the county,” he said. “What we can say is that we do have plans to diminish the traffic volume.”