UNIONDALE, N.Y. - A news conference to trumpet the selection of a developer to renovate a suburban New York sports arena morphed into a pep rally Friday, as sports luminaries including Jason Kidd and John Calipari joined elected officials and business leaders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Kidd, the Brooklyn Nets coach, University of Kentucky basketball coach Calipari were trotted out alongside New York Islanders star Matt Martin and boxing champion Bernard Hopkins as representatives of some of the sporting events that could be staged at a renovated coliseum.
"You've got some excitement in your future," Calipari said, predicting the facility could someday host contests between regional and national basketball powerhouses. "You're going to have teams from around the country flocking to this building."
On Thursday, officials in this New York City suburb announced that a business group responsible for the construction of the recently opened Barclays Center in Brooklyn would oversee a $229 million renovation of the 41-year-old Long Island arena. The plan still needs the approval of the county legislature, but observers say the GOP majority in the legislature would likely go along with Republican County Executive Edward Mangano's recommendation.
Bruce Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, which built the Barclays Center, said he expects renovations to begin in 2015 and be completed after about 18 months. In addition to the sports arena, Ratner envisions a bowling alley, movie theatres, restaurants and other amenities will be built on the 77-acre property, one of the largest parcels of open space remaining in the densely crowded suburb.
Discussions on renovating the coliseum, which opened in 1972, have been going on for a decade or longer.
After voters rejected a 2011 referendum to borrow $400 million to renovate the coliseum, the Islanders announced they would move to the new arena in Brooklyn following the 2015 season. Under the agreement announced Thursday, the Islanders will return to Nassau County to play six games a season in the renovated building.
Ratner also announced the Brooklyn Nets, who called the Nassau Coliseum home when they played in the American Basketball Association in the 1970s, would hold an open practice and play one exhibition game a year in the Long Island facility.
"This is a tremendous responsibility and we are grateful for the county's confidence and trust," said Brett Yormark, Barclays Center CEO.