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Charles Wang, co-owner of the New York Islanders, discusses his Lighthouse project at a recent Garden City Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Mike Milbury of Garden City, Islanders' general manager, who also spoke looks on.

Photo by John Ellis Kordes

Charles Wang, co-owner of the New York Islanders, admits his Lighthouse project is not going to fix Long Island. He does, however, believe the ambitious plan will make Long Island a more attractive place to live, work, do business and raise a family. "We are hoping to give Long Island a swift kick in the butt as a catalyst to do something," Wang said.

As far as naysayers go, Wang admits he's been cognizant of their knee jerk reaction. "We've got to do something for the people of Long Island. We cannot have kids continue to leave Long Island. We've got to build new business ... We've got to do this," he said.

The Lighthouse project proposes to transform the five-acre Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum - the second oldest arena in the National Hockey League - with new seating, widened and modernized concourses, a state-of-the-art sound system, video boards, additional washrooms, restaurants and bars and 50 new luxury suites. According to the Islanders' website, the team has committed to "being a major part of the fabric of Long Island" until at least 2025, 10 years beyond the current lease's expiration.

Moreover, the plan hopes to revamp the site's surrounding 72 acres, which currently make up a parking lot. "We can't leave a parking lot like that," Wang said. "It's crazy."

The project calls for a 50,000-square foot athletic complex with two ice surfaces, a basketball court and health club; the world's tallest lighthouse and Long Island's tallest building that will feature a five-star hotel, condominiums and an observatory deck; and the Plaza, a public performance and recreation space complete with an amphitheater, outdoor cafés, shops and restaurants, are also slated for construction.

Further, the property's existing exhibition hall will be renovated and expanded into the Island's largest conference center to host a broad range of events while a proposed Sport Technology Center will host organizations focused on all aspects of sports technology, including enhancing performance, health and rehabilitation.

John Pittoni of Garden City questioned whether Wang's project and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi's HUB proposal are connected. Wang noted his project is not dependent upon Suozzi's proposed HUB, which calls for, among other things, a light rail system.

Garden City resident Mike Milbury, general manager of the Islanders, joined Wang at the podium to briefly update members and guests on this past hockey season, or lack thereof, and voiced his support of Wang's proposal. "I don't have a visual of Long Island except for a strip mall," Milbury admitted. "I don't think he's trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. He's trying to do something good for Long Island. At least, give him that."

Wang completed a Memorandum of Understanding with Suozzi, who said the Lighthouse project could bring tremendous economic, cultural and social benefit to the Island. Transforming the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and constructing the site's athletic complex is expected to begin in either 2006 or 2007 and be completed in 2009. The Lighthouse project is expected to take between eight to 10 years to complete. The Nassau County Legislature, Town of Hempstead and State of New York must approve the project in order for it to move forward.


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