May 10, 2011

For Whom the Dice Rolls?

Throughout the entire season, even dating back as far as two seasons ago, I had made it abundantly clear that I was going to do my best to ignore and not comment anymore on the 800 pound gorilla in the room - the arena situation. Unfortunately, as we get dangerously close to the 11th hour it is obvious that I can no longer ignore this situation.

Naturally, something happens that sort of forces my hand a bit. That's exactly what today's news is going to do.

A "major" announcement is planned for 11 AM Wednesday.
When I originally started putting together this post on Monday night, it was just supposed to be talk about the possibility of a deal with the Shinnecock Indian Nation. I didn't expect news relating to this situation to evolve as much as it did over the past 24 hours, but here we are.

By now, you most certainly have heard about Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano's scheduled press conference Wednesday morning at the Nassau Coliseum.

Here's what we know so far:

- Mangano released a statement around lunchtime saying:

Tomorrow at Nassau Coliseum, I will announce a major economic development & job creation plan for a sports-entertainment center and casino.

One of the things that's bothered me all day is the use of the word "plan." I'm obviously awaiting this announcement tomorrow, but just keep in mind that it could just quite simply mean "here's another idea for how to develop the land."

- Shortly after releasing his statement, the Islanders echoed what Mangano announced in a press release of their own.

- After a whole day of speculation, the Isles confirm on their splash page that Mangano, Owner Charles Wang and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray will all be in attendance.

- Other attendees include various Isles employees, no matter the department and some available players (Michael Grabner confirmed on his Twitter account that he will be in attendance).

- Since this is a public hearing, anyone can attend. But the Isles have taken this to the next step as season ticket representatives have called their holders to invite them, with some telling their clients that the plan is for "construction on a BRAND NEW arena to begin in June 2012 with expected completion by the 2015-2016 season."

- We also know that the Shinnecocks are somehow involved given that this is a joint announcement, with a casino possibly being constructed in Uniondale, Belmont or elsewhere on the Island, presumably in Nassau County.

When Mangano recently had his State of the Union address to the residents, he talked about a joint project with the Shinnecocks, and even threw out the amount of $400 million of public money to get things going. It seems very unlikely that something of that magnitude would get passed in this economic climate, in a county that is now controlled by the state - especially after a proposed project from Wang's side had most of $3 billion covered by private funds before it was shot down.

The fact that Mangano, Wang and Murray are all going to be together at the same event is the real kicker though. That is essentially cats and dogs living together. When everyone gets together like that, the potential for the photo ops increase where everyone can suddenly puff out their chests and say "see, I got something done!"

I think what the season ticket reps are telling the holders is interesting, and only that for the time being. It would appear to me that they are being optimistic about this "plan" going through what it needs to go through and that is presumably the earliest start date and the target date that everyone else has in their minds.

The real fear that I have is that since this sounds like whatever this is will be going to a vote on August 1st (as reported by B.D. Gallof and Chris Botta), that some of the folks in Nassau will put up a big fight. I don't say that to offend anyone who reads this who is in Nassau, but if you've followed this story long enough you are well aware by now of how some folks in certain towns have this vision that they live in some sort of a Utopian society, where building up means you are becoming too much like the city.

I'm not convinced that a public vote gets us very far. Call me a pessimist, but I think at this point I've been beaten down by this too much just as many of you have been. It seems we've been pelted with rocks from all angles from the past 10 years on the arena issue.

By the way, I find it strangely ironic that on the same day when the future of the Phoenix Coyotes is up for a vote, Nassau County announces this big shindig at the Coliseum. This could turn out to be a huge two days for the NHL and two of their franchises in question. In a span of just a few weeks, the attention can turn to just three teams in question in the Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars.

The logical part of me feels that what is widely speculated by fans across various message boards is what will happen. The announcement is a joint one with a casino going up in Belmont, with the tribe paying money to Nassau for the land. Then that money, and the tax on it will then be used to try and fund the new Coliseum, which ultimately won't be $400 million but less (the original number was put out there by Mangano for "sticker shock" effect).

The other wild card in this? Charles Wang. You would have to assume he'd be on board here, or why even bother showing up, right? We'll, we've heard and seen stranger from our owner, and without knowing what square we're on as of tonight we don't know what hurdles have to be climbed if any.

None of us know what to expect tomorrow, but most of the hockey world is waiting with baited breath now for this announcement at 11 AM. Some of the major outlets like TSN and Hockey Night in Canada have picked up on the Mangano statement and are now following what's going on.

Just remember to keep a level head everyone. It's good to get excited, and at the very least we should definitely see the ball begin to roll fast and furiously after this announcement. There really is no more choice anymore on the speed that ball rolls. This is the beginning of the end. We'll find out in due time if it's good or bad.

Have a good night everyone. Rest up. Here's hoping that my pessimisim is unfounded.


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