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Islanders employees take campaigning seriously

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Monday’s vote to pass a public referendum for a new arena is less than three days away and the employees of the Islanders are more anxious than ever. They’ve put their whole lives into the sports-and-entertainment business, but now they’re feeling that their days as an employed Nassau County resident are numbered.

“To our employees, both here in the Islanders office and throughout the Coliseum, this is very real,” said Islanders Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Paul Lancey. “It’s their jobs and livelihoods that are on the line. If the new building doesn’t get developed, there is a really good chance that the Islanders may not be here.”

And without an anchor tenant at Nassau Coliseum, the building would shutter, leaving more than 2,000 people without jobs. That’s why everyone in the Islanders office has been getting involved in the Vote Yes 2011 campaign. The 70-plus full-time employees and 30-plus summer interns have made phone calls, hung posters, passed out flyers and answered all questions a potential voter may have had.

“It’s very important (to get the word out), not only from our own self-serving interests, but because it’s a symbol of what’s good or not good on Long Island,” Lancey said. “Much like our forefathers in the ‘70s, Nassau County built this building and, rest assured, the county has been paid back 10-times over from all the revenues and tax receipts that have been shared with the county. People forget that.”

Some of the most recurring questions employees have been asked deal with the financial side. Residents want to know who is paying for the arena and how the money will be returned to Nassau County.

Islanders Owner Charles Wang is paying for the arena. Initially, he’ll be borrowing the money from the county, but he’ll pay back 11.5 percent of all revenues generated by the new arena over the course of a 30-year lease.

But Lancey said there’s much more at stake than just the financials.

“A shuttered building would be a symbol for what’s bad in Nassau County and would ultimately create a downward spiral that we may not ever recover from,” Lancey said. “Conversely, a new building will be a symbol for what is good and bright and why people want to come back.”

Lancey continued, “Really, there is a lot at play here. We are at a crossroads. We don’t get to choose a time that these events happen, but unfortunately, we are in one of the worst economic times of our nation’s history. It has taken 10 years for nothing to happen because of the politics at the local level and that’s not good for our economic recovery.”

Now is the time for the residents of Nassau County to unify and rally behind the Vote Yes 2011 campaign.

“We need to rise above, and come Monday, make sure that we get out and vote for the right reasons, the right cause,” Lancey said. “If we don’t take the initiative to control our own destiny and create our own economic stimulus on Long Island, then who will?”

That’s why the Islanders employees have worked countless hours making phone calls and working in the community, because they realize the outcome of this vote spells out their future.

“There is a certain real care and effort about it because it’s very real and very personal to them (Islanders employees),” Lancey said. “They work here long hours. They care very much what happens here with the team and with the events in the building. They are emotionally attached.”

Lancey continued, “Therefore, our offices at three o’clock will be empty for the next few days and forward because at 2:30 we are letting people out into the community to make sure we get the good word and the right word out.”

At the end of the day, it all comes down to Monday at the polls. The clock is ticking to spread the word. Tell your friends, your family, your neighbors: Vote Yes for Nassau County’s future. We are.
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