About 17 months, word surfaced from Suffolk County, New York that a Chicago-based group was willing to invest in an arena-village complex in Ronkonkoma. The arena would seat 17,500 people and would be surrounded by a 500-room hotel, two community ice rinks, retail, dining, offices and a sports medicine facility. Suffolk County taxpayers would pay nothing. It would be privately financed although there is no such thing as privately financed as governments always work out deals that include tax breaks and incentives. In March, when it became apparent that the New York Islanders NHL franchise was almost certainly getting New York State government approval to build an arena in a Belmont Racetrack parking lot on the Nassau County/New York City border, the Ronkonkoma planners cut the size of the arena by 10,000 seats and added a 6,000 seat stadium to the proposal. Suffolk County elected officials wanted the proposal paperwork in August but the investors now have until November to submit their plan.
The Suffolk County arena backers pointed out not there would be no competition Madison Square Garden or an arena in Brooklyn. The backers do have competition from the nearby Nassau Coliseum and the Islanders Belmont building. Suffolk, despite being a New York City bedroom community, would be its own market. In the New York City market, there is a building a Newark, New Jersey, a dormant arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Garden, the Brooklyn building, the Nassau Coliseum, a smaller building in Bridgeport, Connecticut and the proposed renovation of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx that would include a 5,000-seat arena. Paterson, New Jersey is considering a proposal to build a 12,000-seat arena. The Ronkonkoma smaller arena plan suggests that a minor league hockey or basketball franchise would be an anchor tenant. The Suffolk arena backers have a long row to hoe.