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Hundreds of fans rally at Nassau County Legislature Building

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
More than 300 Nassau County residents, union workers and Islanders fans attended a rally on the steps of the Nassau County Legislature Building on Tuesday morning, signifying the start of a new day and step forward.

This call to action coincided with a motion before the legislature to hold a public referendum on Aug. 1 for a $400 million bond. This bond would provide funding for a state-of-the-art sports complex at the site of the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The complex would include a new arena to host Long Island’s only major league sports team, the New York Islanders, as well as a new minor league baseball park.

“As a former player and now the General Manager of the Islanders, I’ve seen arenas come and go,” Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said to the crowd. “The only one that has basically stayed the same has been our home, the 1972-built Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. In comparison to every other NHL arena, our fans, our sponsors and players are being badly shortchanged.”

Garth Snow speaks at a rally regarding the $400 million public referendum at the Nassau County Legislature Building on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.
No one has worked harder or has been a bigger proponent for a new arena than Islanders owner Charles Wang. He’s drafted multiple redevelopment plans for the area surrounding the 77 acres on which the Nassau Coliseum resides, but each time his efforts, while supported by the public, have been stifled by politics.

Wang has expressed his commitment to Long Island time and again and Tuesday morning was no different.

“This journey has been a very long one,” Wang said. “I am extremely confident that the people of Nassau County will support the need for a new arena and a ballpark this August 1st. My commitment to you is the Islanders will stay on Long Island with this new arena until 2045.”

After re-expressing his unwavering commitment to the community, Wang asked Nassau County residents to show their support for the Islanders.

“Make sure that your voices are heard,” Wang said. “We now need to take that first step. We need to have Nassau County Legislators vote in favor of a referendum on August 1st, which will give Nassau County voters the decision on constructing a new facility.”

Closing his speech, Wang thanked the community for their support, adding “We look forward to winning a Stanley Cup on Long Island.”

Local legend and four-time Cup winner Butch Goring also addressed the crowd, expressing his belief in the current roster and his hope to allow the franchise’s history to continue to grow on Long Island.

Charles Wang speaks at a rally regarding the $400 million public referendum at the Nassau County Legislature Building on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is the day that Bobby Nystrom scored that overtime goal way back when in 1980,” Goring began. “I can remember how loud the fans were, how crazy they were and how supportive they were. They’re starting to come back now. There is no doubt about it. I remember back to those glory days with Clark Gillies, Mike Bossy, Billy Smith; those were wonderful guys, but we have a team that’s on the rise now.”

Goring continued, “Garth Snow and Charles Wang have done a tremendous job. Look at John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Josh Bailey, just to name a few of them. This team is on the rise. And when I go on the road, ladies and gentlemen, I see all kinds of beautiful buildings. The New York Islanders fell behind for a while, but now they’ve caught up and now it’s time for the New York Islanders building to catch up as well. Let’s build it now. Let’s pass this referendum.”

Another strong proponent for the redevelopment of ‘The Hub’, County Executive Edward P. Mangano, also addressed the crowd and the media. He began with a positive opening message regarding economic growth and the future of Nassau County.

“It’s a great day for Nassau County,” Mangano began. “This is a day that could begin Nassau County’s future.

Butch Goring speaks at a rally regarding the $400 million public referendum at the Nassau County Legislature Building on Tuesday, May 24, 2011.
Mangano emphasized the hard times that the county has fallen on.

“Nassau County is at a crossroads. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a loss of jobs and a loss of iconic institutions here in Nassau County. We need to plant the seeds of growth and it starts with redeveloping The Hub. It starts with keeping the Islanders here. It starts with helping small businesses.”

Mangano concluded, “We ask for your support. We ask you to call on the legislators to allow our residents to vote whether they wish to invest in their future.”

The 19-member Nassau County Legislature will vote May 31 to place the referendum on the calendar. During the Legislative Hearing, Mangano explained the details of the bond referendum to the panel, following which, community members were able to voice their opinions about the project.
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