Islanders Arena Deal Shut Down – A Roundtable Discussion
It’s a debate that has had many people vocal on both sides of the fence. Should the New York Islanders be given a new arena on the public’s dime? That question got its answer yesterday after a vote of NO by the citizens of Nassau County. There have been some fans, both Isles and non-Isles fans, who were upset and bummed out, and there were some that were happy because “the Islanders stink and they don’t draw anybody because no one cares.” There were also some people who didn’t want to see their tax money go and build an arena for a team that no one really goes to see. It’s a big issue in our area. So some of the Generals and I, after a good discussion on Twitter, decided to have a little discussion about this issue and what we thought. So join Generals Carlos (@speakofthedevs), Mark (@fasterhockey), and Tim (@timjoyce) as we talk about what happened and what’s next on Long Island.
Issue #1: The Islanders referendum failed because no one cares about hockey in Long Island.
Carlos: False. The referendum failed because of one thing: politics. The party that was against this referendum was FOR the Lighthouse Project, which would have been funded by Charles Wang. It’s all about who wants to take credit for something that will ultimately be a good thing.
Mark: False… While the Islanders had a league-worst average attendance of 11,059 there are still fans out there. The Islanders have a rich history, won four consecutive Stanley Cups in the 1980s, and surely have fans somewhere on Long Island. My generation knows them only for their bad contracts and a series of tough seasons, but if and when they start winnings again the fans will come back out. I think it’s two seasons away.
Tim: False. The Islanders have a very good team coming up this season. I think they’re actually better than the Flyers. They also have Mark Streit coming back from injury and possibly Rick DiPietro if he knees don’t explode again (I feel so bad for that guy). The fans will start to see this and, barring injury, will show up towards the end of the year when this team makes the playoffs. Islander fans are very good and the Coliseum can rock when the team is good. But they have to be good. No one is going to show up to that dilapidated arena when the product isn’t fun to watch. The reason this referendum failed was because owner Charles Wang is very out of touch with the people of Nassau County. There is no way this referendum was going to pass a day after a month long debate over our nation’s debt and taxes. Then they expected people to vote to raise their taxes – $13 or not – for an entertainment complex? This was doomed to fail from the start.
Issue #2: True or False: The Islanders will leave when the current lease is up.
Carlos: False. As Jay Jacobs, the main opponent of this referendum has already tweeted, “A new arena will be built but it will be privately funded.” Of course, this rallying cry sounds good, but it was something that was already on the table and shot down…along political lines. Of course, in the end, I think everyone realizes that a dying community has to start with SOMETHING to be rebuilt (the old saying of “you have to spend money to make money”). I think once everyone puts their political agenda away, a new entertainment destination is the only way Nassau County can survive.
Mark: False. The team is once again on the cusp of the playoffs and had a second half almost as good as the New Jersey Devils last year. If they can retain their current group of young and talented players, it’s only a matter of time until the Islanders are relevant again. Once they’re winning, the fans will come back and do what it takes to keep their Islanders from leaving. They have an owner with money, a history that will keep them in New York, and a bright future. Watch for the Islanders to be in high demand come 2013.
Tim: False. But that really depends on a lot. I hope they don’t move. They have some time before the lease is up. Enough time to put together a team that can make a good run in the playoffs and get hockey exciting again on the Island. That is the only way you are going to see a new arena get built on Long Island. If that team goes to the East Finals or by some chance wins the Stanley Cup, then Wang and company has some clout to back themselves up with to even get some public funding for a new arena project. The same thing happened with the Devils in 1995. The rumors were all over about moving to Nashville and then we won the Stanley Cup. I firmly believe that without that Cup win, we would not have the Devils. We also would not have our beautiful Prudential Center in Newark if we didn’t win 3 cups in 9 years. With winning comes clout.
Issue #3: True or False: Public money should be used for sports stadiums.
Carlos: True …to an extent. There are few places that don’t use public money for new arenas. They may not be fully funded by the public, but there is always money used for infrastructure improvements, etc. (like in Newark). In this case, if the land is owned by the county, and the county is being repaid, I see no reason why a tenant (Charles Wang) should pay for the building. If there are safeguards built into a deal, as there was in this one (Wang would pay for any overages, there were minimum payments to be made back to the county each year, 11% of all revenue, etc..), I see no issue with public funds being used. I think we can all agree that public funds are used for far worse things without ever being put to a vote…
Mark: True… maybe. It’s obvious that a major arena can do a great deal of good for a city – enough good to justify a significant investment of public money. The Prudential Center is rejuvenating Newark and bringing money, company headquarters, and people back to the city. If done correctly and given the right opportunity, an investment of this kind can pay off. However, a new arena is no guarantee to pay dividends for a city. In fact, it could be a miserable bust like the Izod center. As New Jersey fans we’ve seen both sides of how a project for a new arena can go. I say true, if put to a vote and invested in the right hands. I say false if the investment is as risky as a new Islanders arena would have been, given their low attendance.
Tim: True…under certain circumstances. If the team’s ownership is in need of a stadium but cannot foot the bill themselves and has exhausted all efforts to build from private investors, then public funding could be used, after a vote and not for 100% of the project. Yes I have specific circumstances. The Prudential Center and city of Newark is finally starting to reap the benefits of putting up $200 million of public money to help the Devils build the arena. San Diego has a gorgeous park in their city which was built with public money. That vote was also after they got to the World Series in 1998, echoing my point in issue #2. We are also in an economy where bigger issues are presiding in terms of jobs and using millions and millions of dollars to fund an arena which may or may not increase jobs isn’t a risk I am willing to take. Most of them are part-time jobs anyway. That is why I don’t mind helping pay in part for infrastructre, public transport to games, and the like. But to pay for the entire project? I can’t say yes to that.
So there is a nice little piece on what some of the Generals think. We are all in agreement that we hope the Islanders stay and get a new arena. Lord knows they need a new arena. We just hope they don’t have to move because only certain people want them gone.
If you want to carry on the discussion please feel free to comment below or chirp at us on Twitter. (our handles are listed above)