REALITY CHECK – New Coliseum No Sure Thing On Long Island

I think the most annoying thing about the press conference yesterday was the media, who seemed to be present in higher numbers than the union, politicos, and fans. Many of them stopped by the handful of Isles fans telling them: “Congratulations, you got your arena!” Ummm, not quite.

Clearly most of the media is just plain ignorant of what is really going on here.

Even those who are a bit clearer on the roadblocks and speedbumps seem to be dismissal of potential problems. To me, this strikes me as foolish, naive, and just plain in denial to the realities of the political process on Long Island.

Soon after, in the afternoon, I received an email from my query to NIFA, the governor assigned watchdog to all of Nassau County’s fiscal process with a very clear warning that went against the talk of Ed Mangano, Kate Murray and Charles Wang. Nobody had bothered to loop in the watchdog who has the final say on permission for any bond or coliseum deal here.

NIFA’s Statement:

“NIFA is deeply concerned about the County Executive’s proposal and its fiscal implications for the County. There was no consultation with NIFA regarding this major proposal announced today. During the control period, greater coordination is warranted.NIFA’s approval is required for all County borrowing, including the $400 million in new debt proposed today, and for all major contracts.

As we await necessary information from the County regarding the 2011 and 2012 budgets, NIFA requires details of this new plan, which must be evaluated in the context of the County’s fiscal crisis, the wage freeze on County employees and the reductions in services to County residents

 

This is unsurprising to those who have followed the Ed Mangano dealings, which seem to fly on the seat of their pants and to be lacking any details. The problem with yesterday’s press conference and promises is the usual vague planning, murk, and just plain lack of details to what exactly is going to happen, and above all, a lack of knowledge on how to kickoff the process so that it actually goes through. It doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy, and it shouldn’t for you, fellow Islander fans, either.

This is a huge gaffe by the Mangano camp and all involved. Here is your big day of PR, and already, within a few hours, a problem has already hit the mix and now leads the news.

I sat listening to yesterdays press conference with a heaping load of questions to their planning. One large one was mentioned by me on twitter yesterday:

“A big unmentioned player to all of this is “Nassau Interim Finance Authority” who must approve Nassau County deals and such

“Democrats and NIFA are the roadblocks here IF either choose to throw themselves against the ire of sports fans”

On Mangano/Wang not getting approval from NIFA, a source says: “have to wait for the vote. And if it approves, you think NIFA would turn it down? Can you think of the anger they would get and the pressure the gov would feel?”

Well, I’m just not convinced here. Especially when some Democrats are already complaining about why are taxpayers having to float a bond when originally Charles Wang was offering to pay for the whole thing privately with the Lighthouse Project? It’s a question of course that is valid, but fails to note that the Town of Hempstead clearly killed that plan, and came up with their own tinier plan…to which Charles refused to compromise or even work out some sort of compromise process. So clearly, when both sides fail to meet, it is dead.

The problem is that the elections in November have a lot on the line, including an opponent to Kate Murray already using yesterdays press conference as a political point, calling the Coliseum deal a “poison pill”. The politicization of the Coliseum Referendum is a potential nightmare if it becomes a focal point to the power struggle between Long Island Democrats and Republicans. Democrats, who I might add, were onboard the Coliseum plans until Suozzi was toppled, and then faded into the woodwork. Democrats who once source said were told to stay away, as another source mentioned others were not invited, to yesterdays presser. Thus, Mangano’s group also now made it a Republican event between them and the ToH, as if purposely trying to exacerbate the issue into political drama.

Political drama will turn this process and Islander fans, who have sat being pulled along like a yo-yo to all sorts of antics, inside out. It isn’t fair, and there seems to be a lack of forethought, tact, and finesse by all parties when it counts most…. as we saw last time between Charles and the Lighthouse Project versus the ToH back two years ago.

A source on the Republican side of the aisle thinks that if referendum passes, NIFA will be unwilling to deepsix it due to jobs created. I still remain unconvinced when it is a Democrat Gov who really controls the NIFA group against a Republican run Long Island. To me, this is kids playing with matches in a room of TNT, with them assuring us, it’s ok. I’m not buying it.

Just as am not buying it is going to happen until all those involved get a clue and actually show some ability to finish what they started. I am still not even convinced that $350 million, that gets allocated to build a NEW venue, is enough in this day and age where labor and building materials are sky high in cost in one of the most expensive places to do business in the United States.

So, call me more than skeptical, concerned, and just plain unconvinced. I remain open to be swayed and hope it works out. But, anyone who thinks this is a done deal or a clear path is just plain fooling themselves.

For the Referendum itself, I think that vote will go YES. Fans, the Republican machine and unions will vote for it, and take advantage of what will be a minuscule vote turnout on August 1st. But that is not the issue. The referendum is useless if NIFA does not approve the bond.

If we look at Mangano’s track record so far as Exec, he has stated that he will balance the budget….and failed. He stated that he will win in a lawsuit against NIFA, and failed. He even said he was going to cut patronage positions…still waiting there. So I am not quite going to buy that this is a done deal by a longshot.

There is also another issue… how does a team that loses anywhere from $20 to 40 million annually expect to suddenly cut a profit and pay the County their share of that $350 million dollars???? Hey, I’m not just going to be the one guy asking this question. Others are already wondering the same.

Follow me on twitter: BDGallof

 

 

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About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.

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  1. Turnpike Terrors says:

    While I support this whole thing fully, it feels like they half-assed it and rushed to make the announcement before taking the necessary steps needed before hand. They should have had all the details hammered out there should have been full page ads in newsday it’s almost as if they want this to fail.

  2. Isle always be a fan says:

    Great points. Yesterday was not handled well. Sucks. But us as Isles fans are used to this sort of ‘bad news, good news, bad news’ sandwich. One step at a time though. Let’s see if County Legislature will vote to even make this referendum happen. The all we should care about is securing the yes. Worry about NIFA if we can even make it that far.

  3. Isles27 says:

    First off I think this 400 million dollar project has a better chance of getting off the ground then Wang’s 4 billion dollar mini city. Second as a Isles fan I am most concerned with getting the team a new building not in building any mini cities with the new building. Third if you don’t think that mini city would have ended up costing the taxpayers in some way you are kidding yourself and I don’t care about all the LHP propaganda. Lastly and most important this is all about politics and if this doesn’t happen for whatever reason Mangano is going to wash his hands of all blame if the Isles pick up and leave and blame the opposition to this plan and say he did his best. One more thing please Gallof with the cable money that Wang gets he doesn’t lose 20 to 40 million a year and if he wants to cut his loses he needs to start making the playoffs and increase that avg attendance from 10K to 15 to 16k.

  4. Peter G says:

    Dear Charles:

    Nassau County is a train wreck politically, you’re wasting time there. I suggest you look east to Suffolk (more people live in Suffolk than Nassau now), or learn to speak French.

    Merci.

  5. Isles27 says:

    I’m wondering all the people on here who knock Mangano like Gallof and Nicky are you voting yes or no on Aug 1 and do you support putting the casino at Belmont Park? Just curious.

    • BDGallof says:

      Answer: Yes & Yes

      • Isles27 says:

        You know Gallof if you were dealing with a guy like Mike Bloomberg and he proposed a casino at the hub and area residents like you didn’t want it there he would attempt to shove it down your throats anyway at least Mangano came up with another location. Also would you be voting yes on this proposal if you thought it would fleece the taxpayers of Nassau County?

    • Nick Giglia says:

      First of all, “Nicky” is not my name, dick.

      Second of all, when have I ever criticized Mangano, or anybody else, reflexively? I interviewed Mangano during the 09 campaign and personally liked the guy. I’ve written 2 things in my life about Mangano aside from the interview: the report on his donors (which has nothing to do with him), and his Coliseum casino idea (which was a complete non-starter). I know thinking hurts, but keep your facts straight.

      To answer your questions – Yes and Yes.

      • RobJ74 says:

        Nick, this guy isn’t worth getting annoyed over. He has his preconceived notions/ideas and he will repeat his ideas over and over again no matter how outlandish they are. Very think headed

        • RobJ74 says:

          thick

        • Isles27 says:

          Sorry “this guy” doesn’t tow the LHP company line. So it’s ok for the pro LHP people to repeat their nonsense over and over but you have a problem when they are rebutted, Rob?

          • RobC/KO21 says:

            No, Isles27, you are very condescending when you repeat peoples names, Isles27…And all you do is tow the republican line, Isles27, aint that right, Isles27…You aren’t an open minded thinker, Isles27…I don’t think based on political affiliation…I think for myself, isles27…

          • Isles27 says:

            Speaking of mature “Mangoloid” did you think that up yourself Rob or was it a collaboration with your left wing friends? That’s not very PC of you Rob but like a typical left winger you pick and choose what subjects you are PC on. Unlike you Rob I don’t look for approval from the majority on here and I fully understand that this blog is full of liberals like you. I would love to see you fend for yourself on a conservative blog Rob but I doubt you would have the balls to go on one. Giglia you can have Rob on your side.

          • Scott says:

            You know isle27, there are a lot of decaffeinated brands that are just as tasty. You’re taking this way too personal and why is anyone who favored the private enterprise idea in the lighthouse a left wing nut but you being the supposed conservative supports a government funded arena. Looking at the number of comments you post, you clearly have too much time on your hands. No one cares about the political affiliation of any of the principles except you. All Islander fans just want to keep the team, although most people preferred the lighthouse idea. You can now proceed with the crazy.

          • Isles27 says:

            Thanks for your concern Scott but I don’t drink coffee and I pop on here every now and then to respond to hypocritical phonies like you who make political posts but when someone makes a political post you don’t agree with then you don’t want any political posts. I’ve already given my reasons why, as of now, I support the plan to build a NEW arena and was against the 4 billion dollar mini city which included a REFURBISHED arena so I won’t do it again here, but I will say, it’s not as simple as 4 billion dollars of private funds vs 400 million of public funds.

      • Isles27 says:

        Very mature response Giglia, typical of your ilk.

  6. Scott says:

    Unfortunately, Mangano is clearly over his head and incompetent but this is who we have to go with to keep the team here. Can’t say this is looking promising so far since most people’s knee jerk reaction is that the County is broke and now they are asking taxpayers to lend Wang 400 Million. I am hopeful but very nervous about this one since if this fails, where do we go from there? At least Hempstead can be happy when they get their empty parking lot if this fails.

  7. garik16 says:

    Can we cut the stupid political speak? Yes some politics is going on here. But opposition is not 100% political, and attempting to spin it that way just is absolutely stupid and homerish.

    There is a reason why people would be down with this plan but fine with the earlier one approved by Suozzi – the use of public funds, and the fact that BEFOREHAND NASSAU COUNTY WASNT IN A STUPID FISCAL CRISIS. THINGS HAVE CHANGED.

    You throw around words like “hypocrisy” but it’s not. There is a legitimate reason to question these things.

    ——-
    Moreover Mangano’s tactic of not announcing any details of how the county will recoup the costs of this plan (payback the bonds…allegedly through some revenue sharing) is a common trick these days, at least of one political party. The standard move is to never release such details but to try and get the plan agreed to anyhow. Voters shouldn’t stand for it. Neither should NIFA.

    I want the Isles to stay here. But it’s not hypocritical to ask for this plan to be voted down, and to have wanted the earlier lighthouse plan approved. Your attempt to spin it as such is beyond stupid.

    • Isles27 says:

      So you want to cut the “stupid political speak” but you go on and post “stupid political speak”, it’s obvious where your coming from. So you were in favor of a 4 billion dollar mini city when we already have a glut of housing on the market that we can’t sell on LI but your against a plan that gives us just what we need a new (not REFURBISHED like the LHP plans called for)arena, a project that will cost 400 million compared to 4 billion, and somehow some way the LHP would have cost taxpayers I don’t believe for a second that it wouldn’t have cost the tax payers a dime. NIFA was appointed by a Democratic governor to oversee a Republican so that just about says it all about NIFA. Instead of telling NIFA his plans Mangano went public with this and now if they don’t like it they will have to wear the black hats and shoot it down. I’m sure if all involved want this to pass they will have to explain everything better by Aug 1.

      • RobJ74 says:

        He did make it political didnt he??? But garik never did say hes against this…Looks like he favors the LHP and transparency so it actually happens instead of wasting time and money. I think he does want this to happen but he wants the Isles and the govt shit heads to do it right and not try to just pull the wool over NIFA’s and the tax payers eyes. Why waste everyones time and tax payers money with the games because if it doesnt make business sense then it will never happen anyway? Get the facts and details straightened out so voters and NIFA can make educated decisions. This way they have answers for apposition when they ask about how the bond will get paid back. This is what happened with the LHP they couldn’t answer questions when put on the spot

        • Isles27 says:

          “This is what happened with the LHP they couldn’t answer questions when put on the spot” and this is why his project was cut Rob and yet you don’t seem to mind the pro LHP people attacking the TOH over and over again for cutting his project. I wrote the following in my response I guess you missed it Rob: “I’m sure if all involved want this to pass they will have to explain everything better by Aug 1.” You seem to contradict yourself Rob so I can’t tell if we are on the same page or not. If Mangano and crew can’t satisfactorily explain this plan to the public (maybe they should have a town hall meeting)then if it goes down to defeat it will be on them. If they do their best to explain it to the public and it still gets voted down because of the economic environment on the Island (which was present BEFORE Mangano took over)then so be it the people have spoken.

  8. [...] out BD Gallof’s insightful article on some of the possible pitfalls and you’ll see that not everything is [...]

  9. RobC/KO21 says:

    I was wondering the same thing regarding the Isles paying the loan back because they cant turn a profit…When I watched the interviews with Mangoloid he sounded unsure and he stuttered when asked if he would give a plan on how they will actually pay it back…I also find it hard to trust a guy who uses the made up word ARENER

  10. OlTimeHockey says:

    The Isles pay from REVENUE, not PROFIT. This is the law as per public bond issuance. The only way they can pull a Giants Stadium is if the debt holder (1st Party) does not enforce payment, which is possible given government incompetence.

    So if it is carried out by the letter of the law, the revenue the building generates pays back the taxpayers regardless of profit or loss.

  11. Hockey Guy in Canada says:

    I think Mangano was thinking its ‘easier to beg forgiveness than get permission’ here. NIFA will have to be dealt with before this is over but if the people vote ‘yes’ and NIFA were to say ‘no’, I would have to believe that there would be a major backlash against this ‘authority’ considering it is just another layer of beaurocracy created by the State as recently as 2000. That said, they do have some finacial control of Nassau County right now. I think from now on, since all the major players finally appear to be on the same side, the ‘more flies with honey’ approach with NIFA would be enough to get them on board.

  12. Isles27 says:

    I find it amazing that with the 4 billion dollar mini city the Isles were getting a REFURBISHED arena out of that deal but with this 400 million dollar proposal the Isles are getting a BRAND SPANKING NEW arena and you still have people on here still pushing the LHP. Would you really rather have a REFURBISHED arena than a new one? I wouldn’t.

    • Hockey Guy in Canada says:

      If Wang was willing to come up with $4 billion for the LHP then he obviously would have preferred to build a new arena as part of it. Problem was that one of the hoops he had jump through to satisfy the Town of Hempstead roadblock crew and the State of New York was the environmental assessment. The LHP’s reconstructed Coliseum, in fact, would have seen the NVMC totally renovated while remaining on the same exact sight. Then they could say hey, we didn’t create any new “footprint”. Why Kate Murray or any other government body now is suddenly not concerned with how new construction would impact the environment or what kind of ‘eco-footprint’ is going to result is a good question but one I think, much like yours, is pretty much rhetorical. The one thing I do get about Long Island politics from following this through the years is that if all the right people aren’t happy, nothing will get done. Thing is, most do seem to be on the same page right now except for NIFA. Another thing to remember is that NIFA can’t claim they didn’t know what Mangano was thinking. He said in his ‘State of the County’ speech on April 11th that he wanted to put funding a new Coliseum to a public vote. That’s why NIFA were so prepared to immediately shoot it down. Again, typical Long Island politics. Only thing they really do well is snark to the press when the right palms aren’t getting greased.

      • Isles27 says:

        Whatever the reasons the bottom line is this proposal has a new arena, the LHP plan had a refurbished one. LI is no different than NYC or Chicago any other place in this country, if the right palms of the local politicians don’t get greased, if something isn’t in it for them, then things don’t get done, it’s not just on LI.

        • Al Cimaglia says:

          Don’t know about politics in LI…But I can say this with certainty…

          If the choice today for Illinois voters was to back a huge bond referendum or lose the Blackhawks…

          Without a doubt the Hawks would be gone.

          This State is busted….

          Hopefully somehow, someway they make it work in LI.

          But be careful cuz desperate times sometimes lead to mistakes whiuch can’t be easily corrected.

          The situation with the Coyotes is largely due to who owned the team when the arena was built…Bad location.

          One mistake does lead to another.

  13. Isles27 says:

    I found this following comment from Botta’s site interesting: “Of course, I want them to succeed. However, if Mangano is lying when he says it won’t cost the taxpayers a dime, then I will be forced to vote against as I cannot in good conscience vote to raise taxes on everyone just to cover a new playpen for the Isles, no matter how much they need it.” Now as anyone who lives on the Island knows around half of your tax burden is the school tax, and I wonder if this person votes no for the school budget every year because as everyone knows not all residents use the school system. So if building a new Coliseum costs us $50 a year ($4.16 a month) in new taxes he will vote it down but approve the out of control school tax. Also hockey isn’t the only event at the Coliseum.