It may officially be time to put the “Islanders moving from Long Island” rumors to bed for a while. Islanders owner Charles Wang addressed the media in New York today to say that he’s more than happy to commit to staying in Nassau Coliseum until 2015 while also working to get a deal done for the “Lighthouse Project” to ensure that the team can stay there in Hempstead, NY for good. Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank brings us the news.
Since Wang has absorbed tens of millions of dollars in losses since buying the franchise ten years ago, I asked him if there was anything he can say to Islander fans concerned about how much longer he can fund the hockey team without an arena development. Never known for being comfortable discussing economics in a public setting, the owner said, “We’re committed to Long Island. I want to keep this professional sports team on Long Island. This is where they belong.” In his own way, Wang tried to send the message that the team would be okay.
He also neatly side-stepped my question about whether his recently revised lease with Nassau County – in which the Islanders generate revenue from parking and from other Coliseum events like major concerts – has softened the crushing financial losses.
Wang would not get specific about alternatives for an arena outside Nassau County. “We’ll look at other options, but right now our focus is on the hockey season.” However, Wang is no longer “going dark” on the subject of the arena issue, hinting that – after a year of mostly silence – he would communicate with fans and media if there is any news. That in itself is good news.
Over the last few years with Wang butting heads with Long Island politicians haggling over what he would like to do with the publicly-owned Nassau Coliseum and surrounding grounds, the Islanders have been the subject of rumors to be moved with Kansas City at the forefront of that speculation.
While the Isles lease goes until 2015 anyhow, it’s good to see Wang put an end to the speculation about ducking out early if he doesn’t get his way. Of course, this all sets the table for Wang to battle with the Town of Hempstead for the next four and a half years only this time in a less confrontational manner, one without the possibility of having Hempstead held hostage by Wang’s demands.
It would be nice to see the Town of Hempstead work with a less confrontational approach with Wang considering he’s looking to develop an area that’s in serious disrepair in the Coliseum and trying to turn it into a commercial destination to build up the area.