(Long Island, N.Y.) Charles Wang may have put all his eggs in one basket and assumed that the majority of Nassau County residents were Islander fans. Big enough fans that they would have came out in droves on a hot summer weekday to cast a vote that would have cost them in tax money, albeit a minor amount. The Islanders owner felt so confident that he publicly stated that there was no Plan B in place if the ballots came back on the short side.
If that was meant to serve as a scare tactic or an exaggeration, Wang is too shrewd a businessman to not have a safety net in place. We are beginning to see bits and pieces of that with the chatter of possible private funding to the refurbished Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Edward Mangano looked at it as the glass still being half full. “This just opens up more doors,” the Nassau County Executive said on Monday at a gathering of supporters at the Coliseum.
A clearly frustrated Wang also spoke at the location when the final tally was announced. “I have to tell you that I’m disappointed and to put it very bluntly, I’m heartbroken,” he said. “I have to tell you it’s a very emotional day for us.”
But regardless of what eventually happens, this vote is a huge blow in the ultimate goal of keeping the team on Long Island. The current lease on the arena expires in 2015 and Wang has been honest about the possibility of the team relocating elsewhere when that day comes.
If the Islanders end up in, let’s say, Kansas City, then a new set of questions will begin to be asked. Without a regular tenant, the antiquated Coliseum may shut its doors for good. That would spell the end of some 2,600 jobs and be a major blow to the local economy. Shows, concerts, expos, etc. that have included the Coliseum on their tour schedules will not be coming around and fans will need to head to Madison Square Garden or New Jersey to see their favorite acts in person.
Another option may reside in downtown Brooklyn, where the Barclays Center is being built for the NBA Nets to move into in 2012. The new arena will no doubt attract all the top entertainment acts, and possibly more. With basketball and hockey teams regularly sharing buildings, it would make perfect sense for Wang to at least investigate the possibility of moving a little west, but staying in New York.
It seems as if the clock has been ticking on the Islanders and how long they remain here as Long Island’s only professional major league franchise. Their illustrious history includes one of the NHL’s most dominant dynasties and a great rivalry with the New York Rangers.
Even though the team has struggled on the ice and at the gate for a long stretch of time now, the league is still better off with the Islanders where they are instead of the second incarnation of the K.C. Scouts or playing second banana to the Maple Leafs up in Toronto.