New York Islanders owner Charles Wang is no longer playing it coy. Wang, frustrated in his attempts to get approval for a $3 billion project that would include a renovated Nassau Coliseum, has made a direct threat to move the franchise from its longtime home.
That could be good news for Kansas City in its attempts to land an NHL team.
Buried in a 6,000-page draft environmental impact statement the developers of the Lighthouse Project delivered to the Town of Hempstead on Feb. 24, is this statement, as reported by Newsday:
“The transformation of the Coliseum, including the sports complex and associated parking," the developers' report states, "is expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars (and) is essential if the New York Islanders are to remain.
“In order to absorb the cost of this transformation, it is necessary to develop the remainder of the components of the Lighthouse. Thus, if the Lighthouse is not approved and developed in a manner that can financially support the transformation of the Coliseum, the New York Islanders will leave this venue."
The Islanders’ lease at antiquated Nassau Coliseum, the third-oldest arena in the NHL, expires in 2015. But Wang last week said 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.
Wang has received offers from politicians in Queens and Brooklyn to facilitate a move to those boroughs, and the Islanders are scheduled to play preseason games next September in Kansas City’s Sprint Center and in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where they will be spending part of their training camp.
Wang, in an interview with Newsday last week, said: "If we don't build this, shame on us. This is something that has to be done. If we can't, you tell me no. It's OK. I mean, really, we'll go where we're loved."
Nassau County loses between $1 million and $2 million a year on the upkeep of the Coliseum, and Wang has said he loses about $20 million a year operating the Islanders.