Madison Square Garden Makes Compelling Bid for the Coliseum

Kevin Schultz

After the last couple weeks, Islanders fans and other Long Island residents have heard plenty about Bruce Ratner’s almost Lighthouse Project-level vision for the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum property (Ratner even compared it to the Eiffel Tower at the public hearing earlier this month, which had to have Lighthouse proponents of the mid-‘00s shaking their heads). There is also the Ratner-Yormark promise of six Islanders games in front of 13,000 fans at the Coliseum starting in 2015, even though it’s uncertain whether that’s a promise they can keep.

For the sake of equal time, Point Blank is providing some insight into the vision of the other major player in the RFP –- the Madison Square Garden Group. Although MSG cannot offer the tease of six annual Islanders games -–  but the Garden, the NHL and seemingly everyone else can block it -– their proposal is not without merits. Take away those Islanders games and there’s as much, or arguably more, to admire about MSG’s plan than the Ratner plan.

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to bring the power and magic of The Madison Square Garden Company’s legendary brands to the Nassau Coliseum and the people of Long Island,” said Hank Ratner, President and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company, in a statement provided to Point Blank.

“MSG has the unique experience, vision and team to realistically accomplish our bold re-imagining of the Nassau Coliseum site as a thriving, 365-day a year destination, with compelling offerings for all demographics. It’s an exciting new future, generating new jobs and revenue, while delivering a world-class sports and entertainment destination for all Long Islanders.”

Here are five notable highlights from the MSG plan:
1. MSG is committing $250 million of its own money to pay for the project. It is paying for the entire Coliseum development on its own and not asking for a dime from Nassau taypayers. In return for not investing anything, Nassau will get tens of millions of dollars in incremental revenue, along with a lot of new jobs.

2. The entire project, as proposed by MSG, would be completed in one phase. That means the Coliseum renovation, the new, 5-acre ‘Long Island Live!’ Entertainment district (restaurants, sports bars, clubs and leisure activities) and the renovated Exhibit Hall would be done in one shot. Bruce Ratner’s proposal is to finish the job –- and pay for it -– over several years. MSG’s plan also calls to leave nearly 10 acres for future development.

3. MSG seems convinced that its plan to have 14,500 seats (as opposed to Ratner’s 13,000) ensures that it will be able to lure A-level concerts and events similar to what the Garden, the Barclays and the Prudential Center in Newark get. MSG says it can commit to 330 events annually at the site; approximately 180 at the Coliseum, which will include the AHL, plus another 150 free events at ‘Long Island Live!’

4. While Ratner’s group owns and operates one venue, the MSG Group owns and operates 7: Madison Square Garden, the Theatre at MSG, LA Forum, Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre, the Chicago Theatre and (irony alert) the Wang Center in Boston (nope, not related to Charles). Since it operates venues of all sizes MSG has the experience, influence and leverage with every major promoter in the music and event business to book all kinds of acts for the Coliseum and ‘Long Island Live!’

5. The MSG Group has Scott Rechler, Wang’s ex-partner on the Lighthouse Project and a Long Island man who knows how to get projects done on Long Island with his RXR Realty firm. Having endured the Lighthouse drama, Rechler knows what Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead are looking for.

Over the last few weeks Islanders fans, including those in this comment section, have been surprisingly divided over Ratner’s offer of six annual Islanders games at the Coliseum. While many Long Island fans welcome that possible dream with open arms, many others are torn. Some wish the Islanders would just stick with one arena, since no other NHL franchise has such a radical home schedule. Others are tired of the emotional rollercoaster of losing the Islanders and now possibly getting a few games back.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post had an on-point analysis of that fan reaction yesterday.

“Stripped of reality, the idea to bring the Islanders back to their roots about once a month can pull at the heartstrings,” Brooks wrote.

“But really, do the fans on the Island — who are losing their franchise through no fault of their own — need to be reminded so up close and personally of what was once theirs a half-dozen times a year?”

From what Point Blank is hearing, Nassau County is not putting much stock in the promise of six Islanders games. Nassau is just looking for the best deal for Nassau. Keep in mind, County Executive Ed Mangano has to make his decision for all Nassau residents and not just Islanders fans.

When you consider that, it’s apparent that Madison Square Garden has given Mangano something to consider for the Coliseum site.




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