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Coliseum vote set for Monday

Posted September 19, 2013

Following unanimous approval by the Nassau County Legislature’s finance, rules and economic committees on Sept. 9, the county’s negotiated lease with Nassau Events Center LCC — an affiliate of Forest City Ratner — will be voted on the by the full 19-member Legislature on Monday. The contract, chosen last month by County Executive Ed Mangano following a months-long request-for-proposal process, outlines the county’s allocation of revenue from the redeveloped Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. In July, Mangano narrowed the field of developers to Forest City Ratner and the Madison Square Garden Company. The two companies submitted contractual terms a month later, and Mangano made his decision on Aug. 15. The following day, county officials and Forest City Ratner held a press conference at the Coliseum, and Bruce Ratner, the chairman of Forest City Ratner, who also led the development of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, pledged to turn the Coliseum into “one of the greatest arenas in the world.” According to Mangano, Ratner’s company has agreed to pay Nassau County 8 percent of its gross revenue during the initial 34-year lease, and 12.75 percent of parking fees. The county will receive a minimum guaranteed payment of $4 million per year. The payments will increase by 10 percent every five years, eventually totaling $195 million. With options, the total may grow to $334 million. Nassau will also receive either $400,000 per year from the entertainment outside the Coliseum, or 8 percent of that gross revenue, whichever is greater. The county will also retain the rights for future development at the site. A simple majority is required for approval by the Legislature. “Nassau County is one step closer to transforming the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum into a sports and entertainment destination that creates hundreds of new jobs while jump-starting the local economy,” Mangano said in a prepared statement. In response to the contract’s unanimous committee passage, Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, a Republican from East Meadow, said, “I am very pleased to be a part of the revitalization of the Nassau Coliseum. It is a remarkable opportunity for the people of Nassau County to have an exciting entertainment venue at no cost to the taxpayer.” Kevan Abrahams, a Democrat from Freeport and the Legislature’s minority leader, said he had a few concerns about the language in the proposed contract, which he said would give Forest City the ability to delay the start of construction for five years. “You’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that could help this economy,” Abrahams said. “We need to get people to work sooner than five years.” He also said he wants to be certain that the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the New York Islanders’ American Hockey League affiliate, would be a permanent tenant of the refurbished Coliseum. Last month, Ratner announced that the Sound Tigers would make the move, but that it would require the approval of owner Charles Wang. Abrahams added, however, that officials from Forest City Ratner were “receptive” when he raised those concerns during committee meetings on Sept. 9, and was scheduled to meet with them again on Thursday of this week. “We feel that Forest City and Bruce Ratner have a tremendous track record …,” Abrahams said. “We’re glad to see that they’re part of this process to rebuild the Coliseum.” Forest City Ratner has agreed to accept all costs and responsibilities for operating, insuring, maintaining and providing utilities for the Coliseum beginning on Aug. 1, 2015, the expiration date of the county’s lease with the arena’s current operator, SMG. The company is committing $229 million to renovations. Ratner said during the August press conference that construction would begin in June 2015, after the Islanders complete their 2013-14 season. Though the team is scheduled to move permanently to the Barclays Center in 2015, Ratner has committed to bringing the team back to the Coliseum for six home games per season once development is complete. Such a move would require approval by the NHL, but Ratner said last month that he was “confident” he would get it. The arena will also host college basketball and hockey, boxing, a Brooklyn Nets preseason game and open practices. Bowl seating would be reduced to 13,000, but could expand to 14,500 with floor seating and shrink to 4,000 for smaller events. Outside the arena, Ratner’s development team plans a movie theater, several restaurants, an amphitheater — which would host free entertainment as well as ice skating in the winter — a 2,000-seat Filmore Club run by Live Nation Entertainment, and a monument dedicated to Nassau County veterans. Monday’s legislative session will begin at 1 p.m. in the Peter J. Schmitt Memorial Legislative Chamber, inside the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building, at 1550 Franklin Ave. in Mineola.