Speaking publicly for the first time since his team scheduled a September exhibition game at the Sprint Center, New York Islanders owner Charles Wang said he’s keeping his options open regarding a relocation of his NHL team.
Wang is frustrated because he has yet to receive approval from Nassau County and other municipalities for his proposed Lighthouse Project, which includes a new arena as well as a luxury hotel, conference center, sports training center, housing units, retail stores and restaurants, minor-league baseball field and acres of underground parking.
In an interview before Tuesday’s Hempstead Town board meeting, Wang was asked by reporters if scheduling the Islanders in a preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings in Kansas City was a subtle way of getting the county to take action on the Lighthouse Project.
"I don't think it was that subtle," he said.
About a possible team move, he added: "I'm not contemplating it; I'm not negotiating with anyone, but I continue to keep my options open -- and they should be open all the time."
Though the Islanders’ lease at the aging Nassau Coliseum runs through 2015, Wang told the Long Island newspaper Newsday that an agreement he made with the county in 2007 to renovate the arena and develop the area around it includes language that gives the team an out: Once the county executive submits a lease for the 150 acres of county-owned property, the legislature has 120 days to approve it. If it doesn't, the team can leave.
A spokesman for the county said he doesn't anticipate such a delay.
"There has always been a consensus from both parties, that once the town goes through its exhaustive process that there would be a fairly quick approval," Bruce Nyman told Newsday.
Nassau County loses between $1 million and $2 million a year on the upkeep of the Coliseum, and Wang loses about $20 million a year operating the Islanders.
"Ultimately, if you don't want to go to an (Islanders) game because the arena is a dump, I lose, the county loses, everybody loses,” Wang said. “I want this thing to proceed. We can talk and talk, but we've got to get off our butts. Let's get it done."