Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Nassau County Drops the Puck, and the Baseball

Nassau County Residents Vote NO!

Strike Down Spending Proposal On New Arena For Islanders and Baseball Field For New Team.

No arena for you.  The residents of Nassau County said they're not footing the bill on a new home for the Islanders; nor a new park for Baseball.  The County already has a $100 million dollar budget gap and refused to ante-up another $400 million (...and interest payments) for the dual project.  Already paying some of the most ridiculous property taxes in the country, the people of Nassau said NO by a nearly 60-40 percent vote in what was reported as a very light turn-out.  Rounded off, only 160,000 residents cast a vote Monday.

Charles Wang; owner of the Islanders and Long Island resident; went from willing to pay for the entire Lighthouse Project himself; needing only re-zoning approval from the County; to settling on County Executive Edward Mangano's proposal and referendum, to no deal at all.  And while this development doesn't totally close the door on a new arena for the Islanders, it moves the Hockey Club one step closer to leaving the area.  Seattle; Kansas City; and Quebec are all clamouring for NHL Hockey teams.  And without any real hopes for a new arena, Charles Wang has maintained he'd seriously look into moving the team out of Long Island when his lease at Nassau Coliseum expires after the 2015 season.

Chances still exist to get a deal on a new arena done.  However, that involves more local politicizing and State approval.  But the sad reality this afternoon remains Hockey on Long Island is staring extinction in the face and the fans on Long Island aren't smiling.

Deciding not to pay for a new home for the Islanders now, either way means loss of revenue for Nassau County.  If and when the Islanders move, Nassau County will have a huge hole in their revenues and they'll have to make it up somehow.  Closing a future budget gap might require raising taxes or spending on revenue generating projects.  No?  Heaven forbid Bureaucrats learn how to cut extraneous spending.

Just remember, this was the County's plan to have Charles Wang be their tenant in a new arena.  Charles Wang's original plan was to finance everything himself.  But the County Board viewed Wang's plan for an entertainment; retail; residential; and hospitality center; as a land grab of some 77 prime acres in the important area they call "The Hub".  Nassau County filibustered his original plan on LIGHTHOUSE long enough to render his financing plan impotent and dead.

In my opinion, it's clear the County is more concerned with controlling the land and making sure Charles Wang signs on as their cash cow instead of encouraging business growth and collecting tax revenues the traditional way.  In the absence of their own viable plan, they're just interested in getting a very healthy piece of someone Else's pie.  Otherwise, the County itself would have entertained bids for responsible development of the area long ago.

This may be loose and slipshod to say, but this is a classic case of Capitalism clashing with Socialistic principles; where local gov't wants to control the strings of business enterprise instead of encouraging business, by being relatively unintrusive and collecting proper taxes the business principles of capitalism generates for it's gov't.  Or, you can side with the County and call Wang's plan for the Lighthouse, Entrepreneurship Gone Wild; and screaming for gov't intervention.

What this boiled down to for the residents of Long Island wasn't about the Islanders or a new arena.  This was about Nassau County mismanaging their money for a very long time and the residents being sick of it. 

Either way, I believe the Nassau County Board has now cornered themselves into a lose-lose situation.  The LightHouse is looking pretty good to them today; isn't it?

Talks about the Islanders moving into Brooklyn's Barclays Center will no doubt intensify.  Truth is, word out of Brooklyn originally said the arena could not, and would not host NHL Hockey because of the very limited seating capacity a reconfigured ice-arrangement would afford.  But that has changed over the last year.  Officials out of Barclays Center are indeed hinting the arena can host Hockey games.  So the fact is, Hockey in Brooklyn remains as an albeit, conflicting option.

Charles Wang has indicated he will sell the team if necessary.  And rumors persist, Mikhail Prokhorov; majority owner of the Nets; could be a possible buyer of the team and move them to Brooklyn himself.  But as of today, I don't believe those rumors carry much weight.  I think those rumors are more media creations than anything else and I ignore them.

The bottom line here is, yesterday's vote was not a good development for Charles Wang; the New York Islanders; their fans; and the residents of Nassau County.

...A Shame!


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