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Arena referendum defeat has Isles looking forward

Tuesday, 08.02.2011 / 10:12 PM / 2011 Offseason News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Arena referendum defeat has Isles looking forward
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano still believes there is hope that the Islanders will get a state-of-the-art arena in Nassau County.
New York Islanders owner Charles Wang used the terms "disappointed" and "heartbroken" to describe his emotions in the wake of the failed public referendum that could have delivered a new state-of-the-art arena for his hockey club and sports and entertainment hub for his county.

Newsday reported early Tuesday morning that with 99 percent of the precincts calculated, the vote was 57 percent against and 43 percent for the referendum that called for Nassau County to borrow $400 million through a general obligation fund to build a new arena and a minor league baseball stadium.

"Right now, I have to tell you, it's a very emotional time and we're not going to make any comments on any specific next steps," Wang told a group of employees, union leaders, county officials and media at Nassau Coliseum early Tuesday morning, according to the Islanders website.

"We now have a season to concentrate on with a team that is bursting with a young core of talent sprinkled with the right mix of veterans. This combination bodes well for the last four years of our lease. We will continue to bring the best possible concerts, family shows and exhibitions so Long Islanders can enjoy the events and keep their hard-earned dollars in Nassau County."
-- Islanders' owner Charles Wang

But Wang tried to stay optimistic as he spoke not long after the polls closed and his latest vision to keep the Islanders in Nassau County through at least 2045 failed.

The Islanders' current lease at the 39-year-old Nassau Coliseum expires following the 2014-15 season and Wang has said the team can't play in the aging building beyond that point.

"We now have a season to concentrate on with a team that is bursting with a young core of talent sprinkled with the right mix of veterans," Wang said. "This combination bodes well for the last four years of our lease. We will continue to bring the best possible concerts, family shows and exhibitions so Long Islanders can enjoy the events and keep their hard-earned dollars in Nassau County.

"Training camp opens next month, so hockey is right around the corner. I can't wait until the puck drops at our home opener."

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano still believes there is hope that the Islanders will get a state-of-the-art arena in Nassau County.

"Tonight is not an ending. It is a beginning," Mangano said. "We will find a new path -- a path that brings people together, a path that solves the problem and blockades to redeveloping this property. We have suffered for 10 years and not been able to come together, but I love this county. I love what goes on in this area, and I still believe in a sports and entertainment destination. We will continue to work hard to find a balance so we that we can create jobs and opportunities in our great county. I am so confident that we will find a way.

"So many people have worked hard to find a solution, and a solution we shall find."

Speaking directly to Wang, Mangano said, "While I know tonight did not bring an ending and a new beginning, it certainly has opened up a path and I will continue to pursue that path to keep the Islanders here."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman echoed that sentiment Tuesday.

"We will continue to work closely with the Islanders to explore whatever options still may be available in light of what obviously is not a positive development," Bettman said. "Our goal is for the team to remain on Long Island and we still hope that objective can be realized."

Keeping the Islanders on Long Island is also the goal of the public officials who opposed the $400 million public referendum.

"Now it's our obligation to find the solution that enables us to build a new Coliseum with private money, not taxpayer money," Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs told Newsday.

Islanders general manager Garth Snow chose to deliver a positive message to the disappointed Islander fan base, saying no matter the vote, he believes the team will give them a reason to walk through the old turnstiles at the Coliseum this coming season.

"Four years ago when we set out on a rebuild we knew it would be bumps in the road," Snow told reporters at Nassau Coliseum. "We built through the draft, we developed these players and now it's time to win hockey games and get in the playoffs.

"It's disappointing … but that being said, we have training camp next month and we're going to give our fans something to cheer about this year. This is the time for us to win."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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