New York Islanders, Government Officials Announce New Arena Plan; Taxpayers To Vote August 1

Taxpayers in Nassau County, N.Y. hold the fate of the New York Islanders in their hands. A referendum to approve a new $350 million hockey arena will be placed on the ballot, and a special election will be held on August 1.

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New York Islanders Arena Plan Under Scrutiny From State Oversight Agency

Nassau County, N.Y. has screwed up their finances so badly that they can't even be trusted to control them. That authority has been handed to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, or NIFA, and when it comes to the August referendum on which taxpayers will vote on a $400 million arena plan for the New York Islanders, NIFA isn't happy.

If that referendum passes, Nassau County will borrow that money to build that new arena and further develop the Coliseum property, which would keep the Isles on Long Island for at least 30 more years.

Via Newsday, subscription required:

"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," NIFA said in a statement.

Said NIFA board member George Marlin: "With the county in a state of fiscal despair -- and the fact that they are laying off county employees -- to saddle taxpayers with another $400 million in debt and to spend scarce dollars on a special election in my judgment is absurd. Cash-strapped Nassau County can't afford fantasy baseball."

Any Nassau County borrowing transaction made over $50,000 must be approved by NIFA, so even if the voters agreed to the referendum in that special election, the state agency will need to sign off on the deal. Given the lukewarm response -- at best -- to the news on Wednesday, this could be an obstacle.

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New York Islanders, Government Officials Announce New Arena Plan; Taxpayers To Vote August 1

If all goes according to a new plan developed by the New York Islanders, Nassau County, N.Y. and the Town of Hempstead, N.Y., a new hockey arena will be built on the site of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before 2015, and the team will stay on Long Island long after that.

Officials, including Islanders owner Charles Wang, Nassau County Executive Charles Mangano and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, Wednesday announced a $350 million plan to develop the Coliseum site, including a new 17,500-seat hockey arena that the Islanders could call home. The plan also calls for a minor league baseball stadium on the site and a casino on the Belmont Park site nine miles away.

The plan will go to the voters in a special election on August 1, a date that's suddenly been circled by thousands of Islanders fans. If it passes, the wheels could be in motion to break ground on the new building by spring. The Isles' lease with the current Coliseum ends in 2015, so the hope is to complete the new building in time for the 2015-16 NHL season.

It's a much different plan than the original Lighthouse Project proposed by Wang several years ago, which was officially shelved last year. That plan was extravagant in just about every way, but complicated local politics and a hard stand by Hempstead Supervisor Murray ultimately killed it. She hasn't made friends with Islanders fans over that stand, either.

The key difference is the use of taxpayer dollars in this new plan. They're voting to throw more taxpayer money into the plan, which obviously is in the best interest of the County given that the alternative is a giant, empty 77-acre parking lot right in the heart of the place. But when compared next to the Lighthouse Project, which outside of infrastructure costs would have been completely covered by Wang and the Islanders, it seems a little strange.

But, these are local politics, in New York State nonetheless, and we won't get too caught up in all of that. Let Lighthouse Hockey, SB Nation's Islanders blog, deal with that sort of thing.

For now, we wait until August 1, when the fate of the team will be decided by the voters in Nassau County.

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