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County Executive’s Column: May 27, 2011

The Redevelopment of the Coliseum Site

For too long, Nassau Coliseum and the property that surrounds it has laid to waste rather than generate revenue for the county that can help hold the line on property taxes. The Coliseum is no longer competitive with other sports complexes around the nation. Long Island’s only professional sports team, the Islanders, face the potential of having to leave Nassau in 2015 when their lease expires should a new arena not be built. A countless number of residents have contacted me with concerns over losing the Islanders. These residents do not want to see the Coliseum doors shuttered, people losing their jobs or the loss of economic benefits currently received from our hotels, restaurants and stores.

To construct a new arena and redevelop the surrounding area, an investment of nearly $400 million is necessary. Over the past decade, several options have been explored to build a new arena. All proposals failed and we are now at a crossroads. The time to design and construct a new arena by the lease expiration of the Islanders is quickly closing. To complete construction by 2015, design must begin in 2011 and construction must commence in 2012. The loss of the Islanders would result in higher unemployment as well as significant losses of sales tax revenue the county derives from ticket sales, hotel stays, and consumer purchases made at the Coliseum, restaurants, hotels and stores.

The Economic Development and Job Creation Plan I advanced puts the question of redevelopment to the people via a county-wide public referendum to be held on August 1, 2011. While voters will decide the fate of a new sports-entertainment destination center, they will also decide the fate of the Islanders who face the potential of having to leave Nassau in 2015 when their lease expires should a new arena not be built. Ultimately, residents will decide whether they wish to invest in Nassau’s future.

The redevelopment of the Coliseum site will generate thousands of construction, secondary construction and permanent jobs. If approved, residents will enter a partnership with the county, Islanders and the minor league ballpark by providing the financing needed for redevelopment. All contracts to operate county-owned facilities at the site will require operators to compensate the county. This revenue sharing payment requirement, coupled with sales tax generated from the new facilities, will produce revenue that exceeds the financing required to construct a sports-entertainment destination center. In short, this plan requires private sector operators to compensate the County for costs for financing the plan. To fast-track these opportunities, I will initiate the process to attract a minor league baseball team by issuing a Request-For-Proposals from interested minor league teams and operators this month.

My vision is to construct a new arena that in part hosts hockey season from October to April and a minor league ballpark that hosts baseball season from April to October. This approach generates jobs and revenue year round. To ensure true transparency, all contracts for operation, design and construction will be subject to review by the County Legislature, Independent Office of Budget Review, Office of Management and Budget, and NIFA. This extensive four-body review and approval process ensures each publically financed project is openly and fully reviewed prior to spending any dollars from the referendum. 

In addition, I have developed a plan that establishes an Indian gaming casino at Belmont Park. This opportunity can also create thousands of jobs and significant revenue for our State, County and the local community. This plan joined with the exciting economic development opportunities unfolding on the former Grumman-Navy property in Bethpage where homeland defense and film and television jobs are emerging as new industries in Nassau. The redevelopment of the Coliseum site, coupled with Belmont Park to the west and the Grumman-Navy property to the east is the catalyst Nassau needs to stimulate our economy and create jobs and opportunities for our generation and future generations.