What a long and strange trip this has been.
This week brought a new twist in the complicated saga of the Nassau Coliseum. The building’s licensee has decided to close down the venue with the hope of selling the arena’s Nassau County licensing agreement to someone. The National Hockey League’s New York Islanders franchise was supposed to play the 2020-2021 season in the arena and then move operations into a new building straddling the New York City-Nassau County border on Belmont racetrack property. There may be some value for someone picking up the more than $100 million of Coliseum debt. There is an enormous amount of property that surrounds the building that could be developed. The drawback? The Islanders new arena is a nine-mile car ride away and will more than likely get the lion’s share of events that come through the area.
In July, 2017, New York State’s Empire State Development agency issued a Request For Proposals for the state-owned land at the Belmont site. The RFP seemed to be written to suit the Islanders’ owners’ needs for a hockey arena. Within five months, the Islanders ownership along with its partners, the New York Mets and Madison Square Garden ownerships won the right to develop the property. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the winning bid and then suggested that the Islanders play some games at a renovated Nassau Coliseum. Cuomo pressured the Islanders ownership and the owner of the Brooklyn arena and license holder of the Nassau Coliseum to make that happen. New York State invested $6 million to make sure the Coliseum was fixed up for the team. The Islanders franchise may go back to Brooklyn for the 2020-2021 season. It will be hard to keep the Nassau Coliseum open because the New York City area has a glut of arenas. To compound matters, there is a group that wants to build a Suffolk County arena.