Friday, 05 October 2012 00:00
The New York Islanders’ lease at the Nassau Coliseum ends in 2015, and Long Island’s only major league sports franchise will almost certainly play its home games elsewhere after that.
But the current National Hockey League (NHL) labor dispute may last a few months, if not the entire 2012-2013 season, giving Nassau residents in 2012 a preview of what the Coliseum will look like without its anchor tenant.
“If the Islanders leave, the Coliseum will not stay open,” said Michael N’Dolo, a vice president at Camoin Associates, a Saratoga Springs, NY-based consulting firm which has done economic analyses for Nassau County’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA) for years. “And think about all of the spending that’s going to leave the county.”
The Nassau Coliseum will go dark after 2015, N’Dolo believes, because the Coliseum cannot remain economically viable based solely on revenues generated by musical acts and trade shows, coupled with the 40-year-old Coliseum’s need for millions of dollars in capital improvements. Plus, if a top-tier entertainer wants to reach a Long Island audience while touring nationally, they’ll book shows at Madison Square Garden (MSG) or the Barclays Center, because MSG has received an extensive facelift and the Barclays Center just opened its doors. Both venues also feature great access to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
Moreover, should the Islanders move in 2015 to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, that borough would receive the $61 million that is now spent in, and around, Uniondale over the course of the Islanders’ 41 regular-season home games. Camoin Associates estimated in 2010 that the Islanders generated annual ticket sales of $26 million. This, in turn, led to food and drink revenues of $13 million, transportation-related expenditures totaling $12 million, and an additional $10 million in spending, which occurred at Nassau hotels and retail outlets, according to Camoin’s analysis.
The Long Island Marriott, situated adjacent to the Coliseum, is the highest-grossing hotel or motel among 56 such businesses in Nassau, something documented in a May 2012 Nassau County comptroller report which can be found on the comptroller’s website. Indeed, the Uniondale Marriott’s annual revenues are about three times higher than Nassau’s second highest-grossing lodging facility. They’ll survive but the Marriott’s coffers will take a hit.
Civic pride aside, my larger point is that the New York Islanders’ likely departure from the county in three years is going to result in bad economic news for a lot of people: the seasonal employees who work at Islanders home games and cannot afford the extra expense of a city commute, the restaurants and bars which cater to Islanders fans who travel to the Coliseum, and the local governments who rely on the sales tax revenues and hotel occupancy fees which the Islanders bring to Nassau.
Nevertheless, I’m warming up to the idea of the Islanders moving to the Barclays Center because Brooklyn is geographically a part of Long Island, and it would allow for an Islanders reunion with the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Nets. Both the Islanders and the Nets played their homes games at the Nassau Coliseum in the 1970s, an era when the county’s taxpayers invested in, and benefited from, major league sports teams.
Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net