Islanders fans and local business owners all worry that without a new arena in the hub, the Nassau Coliseum won’t be the only empty building in the area.
With the loss of the Coliseum, business owners will be hit hard. Hockey games, concerts and other events draw massive crowds to the area. Without any of them, restaurant owners, even more than most businesses, will lose money. Lots of it. Without a new arena, those owners may be forced to close their doors as well.
One of those business owners, George Strifas, believes that if the Aug 1. referendum is not passed, his Colony Diner would lose a tremendous amount of business and money. Strifas also lives in the county and knows that a new state-of-the-art arena would be a great, but also crucial thing for this area.
“First and foremost, I’m a Nassau County resident,” Strifas said. “I would love to see a new arena here with the Islanders playing in it. It would attract better concerts and events and would bring more groups to the area.”
What Strifas feels it all comes down to are the amount of jobs such an enormous project would create and how it will affect the economy in the county.
“The way I see it, the deal doesn’t really cost us, the taxpayers, almost anything,” Strifas said. “It’s pretty much a self-sufficient business. It will do nothing but create more jobs and give a better standard of living here.”
Located less than two miles from the Coliseum at 2019 Hempstead Turnpike, the Colony Diner sees a dramatic influx of customers on an Islanders game day or concert night. Strifas said the days are better when the games or events are sold out, but even when they’re not, he sees bigger-than-usual crowds.
“We always get a great crowd before the game and then a good crowd after the game,” he said. “The servers obviously make more money. The business makes more money. My suppliers all make more money on the sales of the goods, so it’s a chain reaction. It’s great for us as a business and it’s good for the economy.”
Nassau County residents are the only ones permitted to vote on Aug. 1, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be the only ones affected if the referendum doesn’t pass. The Coliseum draws thousands of fans and concert-goers from Suffolk County, Connecticut, the five boroughs and other surrounding areas.
“People who don’t usually come to this area, come for Islanders games, concerts and family shows and find establishments like my restaurant or another close restaurant,” Strifas said. “They like these places, and when they do, they’ll come back in the off-season.”
That’s important for businesses and restaurants like the Colony Diner. Without Islanders games and other shows, those people coming from around the tri-state area wouldn’t have an outside reason to come to this area
Another issue related to how outdated the almost 40-year-old Coliseum has become, is the fact that there are newer or upgraded sports and entertainment venues close by. Strifas referred to Madison Square Garden, which is undergoing extreme renovations, and the new Barclays Center, set to open in Brooklyn in 2012.
Though the Coliseum has hosted several major concerts and events already this summer due to the MSG renovations, Strifas doesn’t believe that will continue in the future and acts won’t want to have events at a run-down Coliseum.
“I think a lot of people are going out elsewhere and not coming here,” Strifas said. “With a bigger, better arena, I’m sure there would be a lot of bigger bands and shows that would come here. Those bands and shows and a new arena would also bring in the crowds to my restaurant and other local establishments”
He also said it goes beyond his own Colony Diner.
“I’m an Islanders fan and my nine-year-old son is a big Islanders fan,” Strifas said. “We attend plenty of games, but it’s also a standard of living issue. It’s so convenient to have a professional sports franchise right here.”
A convenience to Strifas and 1.3 million Nassau residents alone, it’s because of that professional sports franchise and other events held at the Coliseum, that the Colony Diner and many other local businesses are able to keep their doors open.
Without events at the Coliseum, there will be no people. Without people, there won’t be people to frequent the local establishments. Strifas said that if the referendum is voted down, he most certainly would lose a great deal of business.
“If that happens, we lose a good degree of business,” he said. “I would say anywhere from $75-100,000 a year on business. That would be over a 40-45 game span (during hockey season). Then if they make the playoffs, it would be more than that.”
Strifas said he’s not the only business owner who’s supporting the building of a new arena in Nassau County.
“I would guarantee that any eatery within the immediate vicinity of the Coliseum is definitely in support of this,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who’s really not in terms of business.”
That immediate area includes well over 100 restaurants, delis and other dining options, not to mention the numerous other businesses in the area. The loss of the Coliseum affects more people than merely the Islanders and their fans, and they aren’t the only ones who are showing support for a new arena. A new sports and entertainment destination will impact us all.