Nassau Coliseum and the New York Islanders: Where Was the Outrage 5 Years Ago?
Dec 14, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; A general view of the arena before the game between the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In a rare move, there will be a joint bicounty press conference on Friday to urge the New York Islanders to return to Nassau Coliseum.

It’s often said that politicians aren’t held accountable for their actions. If this is the rule, then the Republicans of Nassau County are the exceptions.

In 2013, when the Republican-led legislature was looking for a developer to work on the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Co. said this at a hearing: “Honestly, for a team to play here 44 games, you would probably have to build this Coliseum from scratch.

“The concourses are adequate for 5 or 6 games. The concessions are fine enough for 5 or 6 games, but you just don’t have suites there… you don’t have boxes. You probably need 100 suites there. They’ve got to be perfectly done.

“So the truth of it is if you want a professional team back here you’re really going to have to spend a lot of money and build a new arena.”

The legislature heard his remarks. They deliberated his proposals. In the end, they decided to use Forest City Ratner Co. to redevelop the 45-year-old arena, with the knowledge that the ‘New Coliseum’ wouldn’t be able to hold a professional hockey team.

And yet, after all that, the Nassau and Suffolk County legislature’s plan on holding a joint press conference at the Coliseum on Friday to urge Ratner’s company to make “modifications” on the arena. The hope is that the Coli’s last tenant, the New York Islanders, will be persuaded into returning to the Coliseum.

Says DuWayne Gregory, the presiding officer of the Suffolk Legislature, a new arena would “mean more fans spending money at local sporting goods stores, cheering their team on at restaurants and bars, hosting watch parties, and frequenting local businesses on their way to and from games.”

Where was this push when Charles Wang was trying to get them to do just that?

It wasn’t there. Despite multiple plans to keep the Isles in the area, the polls didn’t budge. Years later, they’re finally realizing that the team should have always been at the Ol’ Barn on Hempstead Turnpike. It’s too late now.

If the Old Coliseum was regarded as the worst arena in the league (from an outsider’s perspective), then the New Coliseum will be even worse. The only major element of the arena to be redone was its concrete facade. It only fits 13,000 people — which would be the least in professional sports.

“Honestly, for a team to play here 44 games, you would probably have to build this Coliseum from scratch.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has repeatedly said something along the lines of “We do not view Nassau Coliseum as a suitable option for the Islanders.” Per Newsday’s Jim Baumbach, to whom much of this piece is credited, “sports arena experts say they’d also have to add [in addition to extra seats] dozens of luxury suites and significantly expand the home team’s dressing area” to bring them back to the Coliseum.

It’s simply unrealistic.

Which is why fans and area residents alike have taken notice. Murray, the maligned top dog of the TOH, was shockingly defeated in her race for the District Attorney’s post. There were anti-Mangano Facebook groups set up before he chose not to run for reelection (incidentally, he was later indicted on several counts of bribery).

This isn’t just a partisan issue. There were Democrats who could have done more to keep them in Nassau — and Democrats who could have supported Wang’s proposals more.

But the politicians involved in the team’s departure are the same pols now clamoring for the team’s return. They’ve learned, but it’s too late.

H/T to Jim Baumbach and Robert Brodsky of Newsday.

Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.