Charles Wang: If arena referendum doesn’t pass he’s not trying to develop area anymore

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For whatever you think about Islanders owner Charles Wang, there’s one thing you cannot question about his leadership of the team. Wang’s dedication to trying to do things to improve the team in the face of a host of problems has been tireless. While it’s easy to pick on the monstrous contracts he’s given out in the past to Alexei Yashin and Rick DiPietro and how the team has done under his watch since buying the Islanders back in 2000, he’s at least had his heart in the right place.

Wang has tried over the years to get a new arena project going on Long Island to build a new facility for the Islanders. Nassau Coliseum is currently the second oldest arena in the league (just behind Madison Square Garden that’s being renovated) and it’s widely described as being the worst current venue in the NHL. Wang tried to fix things by himself with his Lighthouse Project but the Town of Hempstead repeatedly shot down his plans for that.

Now, with a major vote coming up on Long Island for taxpayers to decide whether or not they want their tax money to pay for a new arena and minor league baseball stadium, Wang has made it known that if the referendum doesn’t get passed and the plans are not approved, he’s no longer going to try and develop the Nassau Coliseum area opening things up to a questionable future for the Islanders on Long Island when the lease at the coliseum runs out in 2015.

New York Newsday’s Ted Phillips has the story from the excitable Islanders owner.

Wang said the lease he negotiated with Mangano is “plan A” and there is no plan B.

“We’re asking people to approve the deal we have,” he said. “You can always tweak this, do this, so forth . . . It’s like anything else. You have a whole mix of things where you negotiate a business deal. Some of which you may love and some of which you may not like as much, but you come up and you do the deal then.”

Wang sees himself as better positioned because the clock is ticking on the current lease.

“The biggest asset a team has . . . is an expiring lease,” he said.

Wang wouldn’t say whether he was in talks about relocating if the referendum fails.

It’s a desperate time for the Islanders fans. Getting a new arena is something most every team in the NHL has seen over the last ten years. That doesn’t make it their right to get a new one, but if there’s a team that needs it, it’s the Islanders. Nassau Coliseum is described as “the mausoleum” by many for its dreary lighting and seemingly antiquated set up.

Making things more desperate for the Isles and their fans is the talk of relocation. With sites like Quebec City and Seattle being talked a lot about potential places to move and Kansas City having an arena ready and waiting to be received by any major sports team, the possibilities are there. Of course, moving a team with the kind of history the Isles have would be virtually criminal and it’s something Wang is trying desperately to avoid doing down the road.

That said, hockey’s a business and if Wang cannot get any of his plans to try and improve things for his team he’s got every right to try and find a way to make things better by himself. He’s done that with his Lighthouse Project plans that were foiled and, down the road, he could do that with a possible relocation bid. That would be the ultimate desperation move and that’s what makes the Islanders August 1 vote all the more important to the future of the team in New York.