By Barry Janoff
August 15, 2013: When Charles Wang, majority owner of the NHL's New York Islanders, could not reach an agreement with Nassau County in Long Island, NY, for a major renovation of the team's home venue, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, he signed a deal that will see the team move to Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, NY, beginning with the 2015-16 season.
Now, an affiliate of the group that owns Barclays Center and part of its major tenant, the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, will have the opportunity to conduct their own major renovation of Nassau Coliseum, located about 25 miles east of New York City.
Nassau Events Center, LLC, part of Forest City Ratner Companies, led by CEO Bruce Ratner, was given the rights on Thursday to renovate the arena that opened in 1972 and was host to four Islanders' Stanley Cup championship runs in the 1980s, as well as an array of sports, entertainment, religious and political events.
Ratner's group got the nod over The Madison Square Garden Co., whose holdings include the NBA's New York Knicks, the NHL's Rangers and the WNBA's Liberty.
Financial details were not disclosed.The renovation is expected to cost at least $229 million, according to industry analysts. Forest City Ratner will operate the venue for 34 years, initially paying Nassau County $195 million a month in revenue via a deal that could reach $335 million if an option for a 49-year lease is enacted, according to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
The deal must still be approved by the Nassau County Legislature.
"We are ready to get to work to deliver a world-class Coliseum and a thriving sports, entertainment and retail center that Long Island deserves," Ratner, a minority owner of the Nets, said in a statement. "Our partnership group is focused and prepared to bring the best to Nassau and to fulfill the County’s goals of vital job growth and significant economic activity. It is time for Nassau County to have an iconic and celebrated venue that will have something for everyone to enjoy and which will redefine the customer experience."
Forest City Ranter's plan calls for at least 300 sports and entertainment events annually in the rebuilt Nassau Coliseum, including six Islanders regular season games and a Nets pre-season game. Like the Islanders, the Nets called the arena home from 1971-77. Live Nation would be at the forefront of overseeing concerts in conjunction with Roc Nation, which is headed by former Nets minority owner Jay-Z.
The new Coliseum will have 13,000 seats, versus the 18,000 now available for concerts and 16,700 for the Islanders.
The renovation will be part of a "new public-private partnership [overseeing] the construction of a 100% privately financed Coliseum that will share revenue with the County at zero expense to the taxpayer," according to Forest City Ratner. The project is expected to generate "hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity per year."
"Our partnership group is focused and prepared to bring the best to Nassau and to fulfill the County’s goals of vital job growth and significant economic activity."
Renovation would be under the auspices of SHoP Architects, which handled Barclays Center.
A group of major movers-and-shakers related to the redevelopment plan were at Nassau Coliseum on Friday (Aug. 16) to unveil additional details. Among those scheduled to attend are Bruce Ratner, Brett Yormark, (CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets), Edward Mangano, Alan Ostfield (president, North Atlantic, Live Nation), Jason Iley (president of Roc Nation Records), Jason Kidd (head coach for the Nets) and John Calipari (head basketball coach for the University of Kentucky), as well as athletes such as Matt Martin (New York Islanders) and Bernard Hopkins (World Light Heavyweight coxing champion).
The Nets are majority owned by Russian-born billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who will be personally represented by Chris Charlier, deputy CEO for the Prokhorov-owned Onexim Group, as well as chairman for the Nets and director for Barclays Center;
Both Forest City Ratner and Madison Square Garden Co. had marketing campaigns throughout the region supporting their respective plans for the Nassau Coliseum.
"While we are disappointed with the County's decision, we are not at all surprised given the history of this project, and will be watching closely as this process moves to the County Legislature," Madison Square Garden Co. said in a statement. "We continue to believe that Madison Square Garden's proposal, expertise and proven track record represent the best and most realistic opportunity to revitalize the Nassau Coliseum. We remain deeply supportive of the efforts to create a rich and vibrant destination for all Long Island residents, and sincerely hope that, regardless of today's decision, Long Island ultimately gets the world-class destination it deserves."
"By having The Madison Square Garden Company compete with us on this development demonstrates the significance of this project and both of our companies’ commitment to Long Island," Ratner said in his statement. "We are honored to be chosen to deliver a vibrant attraction for a Nassau like never before. . . . We understand and proudly accept the tremendous responsibility that accompanies this project and the impact it has on future generations of Long Islanders. It is time for Nassau County to have an iconic and celebrated venue that will have something for everyone to enjoy and which will redefine the customer experience."
PHOTOS: Nassau Coliseum renditions courtesy SHoP Architects