Hockey World Blog

Long Island Residents Reject Bond Proposal For New Arena

On Tuesday, residents of Long Island had the opportunity to vote on a bond issue for a new arena to replace the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and keep the NHL franchise in town.

If Charles Wang decides to move the team, this failed ballot measure could bear part of the blame.

The ballot issue was over borrowing $400 Million to fund a new arena on the Island. Isle’s owner Charles Wang has vowed he hasn’t given up on the residents of Long Island and would love to keep his team on the island. The current lease at the Coliseum runs through 2015, so there is a good chance the team can stay on the island until then at the earliest. After that, who knows where they can go? If Wang does decide to sell the team, there is a good chance they could move to Kansas City as there is a new arena (the Sprint Center) that is without a full-time professional sports franchise. Just like Atlanta (Flames) and Winnipeg (Jets), if that decides to happen the NHL will be returning to a city that used to have a franchise as the Kansas City Scouts played in the NHL from 1974-76 before moving to Denver. That franchise relocated to New Jersey in 1982 and is now known as the New Jersey Devils.

Although a new arena would play host to concerts and other events, the election centered around the viability of the Islanders, who became a source of civic pride less than a decade after the team’s inception, winning the Stanley Cup four straight times from 1980 to 1983. Since then, they have fallen on hard times as they have not won a Stanley Cup playoff series in 18 years and have not even qualified for the 16-team playoffs in the last four seasons.

They were last in the league in home attendance last season, averaging 11,059 fans per game. The roster, however, has been rebuilt in recent years, and the Islanders are generally thought to be more competitive. The NHL and the Islanders’ two most bitter rivals, the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils, have been publicly supportive of the arena project on Long Island.

The referendum spurred much debate, including the timing of the election itself. Holding the election on a Monday in August instead of on Election Day cost the county $2 million, and turnout was light. Mr. Wang had offered to cover the cost of the election if the measure passed. That alone could have turned many voters away from the polls. If Wang was smart, he should have had the ballot measure on the November ballot to have a higher voter turnout. The county’s finances are in such poor shape that they are monitored by the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority. The authority said the county could run a deficit of up to $140 million this year. With 82 percent of the ballots counted Monday evening, the vote was about 57 percent to 43 percent against borrowing the money through a general obligation bond to pay for the plan, which also called for construction of a minor-league baseball park and convention space.

 

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