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Nassau Coliseum future to be studied

Nassau Coliseum

Despite the impending loss of the New York Islanders (NHL), Nassau Coliseum could live on as a scaled-down, more modest facility.

The Islanders are set to move to Brooklyn‘s Barclays Center for the 2015-2016 season, but Nassau County officials don’t foresee closing down the facility. Quite the opposite: County Executive Edward Mangano has enlisted experts to study the 77-acre Hub site, and he’s calling on Bruce Ratner to look at what can be done with the Coliseum. Ratner, of course, is the developer behind Barclays Center — the man who is facilitating the move of the Islanders to Brooklyn and will end up being a minority owner of the NHL franchise. From Newsday:

At a Mineola news conference Tuesday, Ratner — who wooed the Islanders to play in Brooklyn — said he will spend the first half of 2013 assessing the Coliseum. He said he will see if it can be transformed into a competitive, more viable arena, through better marketing, potential sponsorships and possible renovations. He said he is doing the study for free….

For his part, Ratner said he didn’t expect razing the arena would be an option. He also suggested that a full-size arena like the Coliseum wouldn’t work without a professional sports team.

“An area of 2.5 million people really needs an entertainment facility,” Ratner said in an interview.

“The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum has served generations of Long Islanders as a family friendly environment for sports and entertainment,” Ratner added via press statement. “We are very pleased to have an opportunity to evaluate what is needed to help restore and refresh the Coliseum. My organization will be taking a comprehensive look at the venue and will develop a series of recommendations that can assist in the long term development of the arena and surrounding property. Our goal is to assist in assuring that Nassau Coliseum remains an asset to the County, books the best acts, remains a destination site for Long Island, and an economic generator that creates and retains new jobs and investments throughout the Hub.”

Charles Wang, who unsuccessfully attempted a development at the Hub to fund Nassau Coliseum renovations, will also consult with Ratner about the arena’s future.

One option immediately comes to mind: downsizing the arena while improving the fan amenities. Right now the Coliseum seats 16,000 or so; downsizing it to 9,000-12,000 seats would keep it as an attractive concert venue while opening it up to a different level of sports — say, a team from the American Hockey League. Such a move would keep pro sports in the Coliseum while creating an economic model that would work for an AHL team owner. Using Nassau Coliseum as a practice facility for the Nets or Isles wouldn’t probably make a whole lot of sense, just because of the distance between Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum.

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