By Jason Lockhart
Get excited, Islanders fans because before you know it, a fully renovated, state-of-the-art Nassau Coliseum is going to be the centerpiece of a thrilling new experience in Nassau County.
Islanders owner Charles Wang and President and CEO of Reckson Associates Realty Corp., Scott Rechler, presented their proposal Thursday night at the Nassau County Executive Building for the groundbreaking Lighthouse Development Project to members of local Legislature, its Planning, Environment and Economic Development Committee and the public.
"I come here not as a contractor, but as a neighbor," Wang opened. "I've been living on Long Island for 50 years and I am excited and passionate about preserving and enhancing its quality of life."
A standing-room only crowd attentively crammed into a courtroom to hear and see the presentation of a project that could change the way of life for many Nassau County residents.
After a full day of announcing his new hockey ops staff, at night Wang discussed the largest Long Island business endeavor in years.
Wang's opening statement was sincere and convincing, not only convincing the local government, but citizens as well - who came out in large numbers to listen and participate in the three-hour hearing.
Wang discussed the existing problems, including the need for major renovations to the Coliseum, which he considered the country's worst arena for entertainment. He also noted that from a business standpoint, the current building was not sustainable, revealing losses of over $100 million since he purchased the team six years ago.
It's in the Lighthouse Development Project that there is reason for hope.
"The good news is we have come up with an innovative plan to address these problems," Wang said.
The solution involves a complete overhaul of the old Coliseum without rebuilding it, saving millions of dollars.
"We want to see kids' jaws drop when they see their first hockey game," Wang said.
The Coliseum, however, is just the beginning. A virtual video presentation, following Wang's opening statement, revealed the creation of a brand new social center for Nassau County.
Dozens of new structures will be erected, including residential apartments, a new five-star hotel, a sports technology center, restaurants, stores and a Venetian-like canal that will run through the main corridor, creating a beautiful setting for daytime and evening functions.
Along with the Coliseum renovations, three more NHL-size rinks, basketball courts, a fitness center and a new baseball field, for a future minor league team rivaling the Long Island Ducks, will be constructed in the complex as well.
There were some legislature and public concerns addressed, including the effect of the project on local businesses and the loss of natural land.
Wang assured doubters that he and Rechler were looking into all of the project's adverse effects, and that the benefits would largely outweigh the costs.
The overall sentiment was positive. If the project is approved by the local government, then construction on the project could start as early as June 2007.
"My mom once told me to leave something that would make the world better off," Wang said. "The Lighthouse does that."