Meet Me At The Lighthouse

When I interned at the New York Islanders it was quite clear from the thoughts of everyone there that the Lighthouse Project would probably never happen. They advertise it often enough, and I won’t name names of course, but virtually none of the employees thought the Lighthouse would ever take off. It has now become a figurative pissing contest between Mr. Charles Wang (pronounced Wong), owner of the Islanders, and Kate Murray, the supervisor for the Town of Hempstead (the township the Islanders play in – Uniondale is in Hempstead which is in Nassau County). And it seems neither side is budging.

How is this related to the Rangers?

Simple. Besides being a division rival, as a Long Islander, its nice to actually have a Long Island franchise (NO, THE METS DON’T COUNT – THEY’RE IN QUEENS, NOT LONG ISLAND).  The Coliseum is easy to get to, and not nearly as much traffic getting to a game, whether it be for the now defunct New York Dragons or an Islander game. Trust me, there are A LOT of Ranger fans out here on the Island. Nassau and Suffolk Counties alone account for over 3 million people. Many of them sports fans, because as we all know, New York is a sports haven. Plus, when the Islanders play the Rangers, Nassau Coliseum always sells out and the fan population becomes 50/50 representation of fans. Often, Ranger fans even out populate Islander fans in their own arena, no joke. In fact, they are the only tickets during the season that are impossible to get free tickets to. When I say free tickets, I don’t mean the team giving them to fans either. No fan can redeem free tickets for a Ranger/Islander game and no employee from the Islanders ocan even give free tickets to friends, family, or even clients. Talking to an employee during my time there he said it would take two season for Islander fans to out populate Ranger fans in the Coliseum during games. This is because those games are the first to sell out in the beginning of the season and the Islanders would have to have an amazing season and THEN next year’s ticket sales would improve so that the games can be better distributed in home team favor. Highly unlikely for awhile. The NHL is the only league to have 3 teams bleed one market, and for the longest time it was working, until recently. The Islanders organization loses around $30 million a year every year. A large part is due to their contract with the owners of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Islanders do not own the arena they play in, the County of Nassau owns Nassau Coliseum, and they have Spectacor Management Group (SMG) manage the facility.  The deal they have with them, is that the Islanders don’t make money on parking or concessions (two LARGE sources of revenue for any sporting organization). That means the only main real sources of revenue streams they have come from ticket sales and merchandise. Two things that are hinging on the team’s performance. And when the team has only made the playoffs once in the past 5 seasons, their ticket sales are not booming.

Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum a.k.a. "The Barn"

What also doesn’t help this factor? The fact that the “barn” they play in is now the second oldest arena in hockey, behind, of course, Madison Square Garden. Huge difference between the two arenas, though, as most people know. Nassau Coliseum is an old ratty building showing the signs of old age. For one, the seats are terrible. Most of them are cushions with wooden arm bars. Consider yourself lucky if you have an arm-bar at all and there isn’t a spring sticking in your ass. When you get down to the more expensive seats, the 100′s (which are a joke – I wouldn’t pay more than $25 for these seats), you start walking on metal extensions. These things are flimsy at best, and at some points just sink down. I mean if this was 1979, it would be a fine place to watch a hockey game, but the Coliseum is INCREDIBLY BEHIND the times and desperately needs an overhaul. This is part of the reason Mr. Wang bought the team in the first place. He was under the impression that he’d be able to work with the town to build a new arena and revitalize the area and the organization. Cut to 10 years later, a partner down from the original purchase, a failing system (thanks in large part to Mike Milbury), a public regret of buying the team at all, and Mr. Wang is no closer than when he began. He’s a business man, he owns(ed) many corporations and is very smart at making them great. Why not trust this man with the land in front of him? He wants to make a large overhaul to the area surrounding Nassau Coliseum, and no they would not be knocking it down and starting anew. Its a large renovation that would take years/seasons to finish. Murray pissed on these dreams last season when in early October, Wang gave her a deadline, it came and went and then he announced he was open to selling the team, moving the team, he just didn’t care anymore. On Tuesday, Murray sent Wang a new revised plan of his original Lighthouse Project that he called “economically unviable”. Both parties are extremely stubborn on the matter and probably won’t be shaking hands any time soon. The proposed plan still calls for the Coliseum renovation, but severely scales down the high-rises and housing units that are also included in the project. Granted he’s asking for quite a bit, but can’t we just agree to renovate the Coliseum and then negotiate your other ridiculous demands? Islander fans will be happy enough with the renovated arena to come back. Hockey fans don’t care about your housing units and your future vision for Nassau County.

Now what seemed as ridiculous ideas, could be very possible solutions in the Islanders moving. There are two popular opinions on where the Islanders could be going. One is the well known and commonly talked about move to Willits Point where the New York Mets play. Jeff Wilpon, owner of the Mets, has been basically open-arms to the Islanders move over there. This is very possible, and benifits both parties. The only people it screws are the actual Long Islanders. You’re now in the city, although it’d be hilarious, you might as well call yourself the New York Queens at that point. Oh boy, I can hear the Ranger fans chanting “NEW YORK QUEENS” already. Loving it.
The other option, that would help them stay is if the Shinnecock nation comes to the rescue and says that the land where they currently play in Hempstead is what they want and work with Wang to build the Lighthouse project. This is very possible as well as the Shinnecock nation has recently won a long standing battle and to sum it up, basically get to choose anywhere they want to build a casino or whateverhaveyou that they want. Islander fans have been waiting for their win hoping to see a light at the end of their tunnel. Problem is, Shinnecock has the open possibility of anywhere they want, including much more viable options than Uniondale. Also, its believed they may want to build something close to the liking of the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, and if that’s true, than the Lighthouse Project is not down their alley. To add to the insurmountable options that they already have, the Shinnecock nation has been getting crap from the Town of Southampton for over 350 years, so you could see them going after the thorn in their side for all we know. Only time will tell for this story.

What I do know though, as a Ranger fan, and more importantly as a Long Islander, I don’t want to see the New York Islanders move anywhere off the island. In fact, despite our hatred for the Islanders and Islander fans especially, no Ranger fan I know, wants to see them move far away. We want them right where they are, so we can continue hating them and chant “FISHSTICKS!” and “POTVIN SUCKS” whenever possible.

Now enjoy your corny Lighthouse Project viral video.

Tags: Charles Wang Kate Murray Lighthouse Project Long Island Nassau Coliseum New York Islanders New York Rangers Shinnecock

  • Chris

    This article is apprciated, but you got some things wrong- not the least of which being you do not have the correct owner for Nassau Coliseum.

    Read some of the back catalog of blog posts here, I think it will help you.

  • Pingback: Official cupcakes for NHL teams? Seriously, New York Islanders? - Yahoo! Sports (blog)

  • John

    Wang has been getting parking and concessions since Feb 2010, with the price of both most likely going up next season.

    • Mike Hirsch

      John, I’m sorry to disagree, but the Islanders do not make any money off concessions nor parking. SMG makes all of that money.

  • Matthew Katz

    Very well written article except for one part. The Coliseum is no palace, but the seats are not even close to disappointing. I attend roughly 8 games a year, all in the 300′s section, and I’ve never had a problem. The seats are comfortable, the arm rests are comfortable, and there are no springs in any of the seats I’ve ever sat in. I’ve only sat in the 100s once, but even then, the seats were not that bad. The floor is a metal extension, yes, but it is not flimsy, and the seats are plenty comfortable.

    • Mike Hirsch

      Thanks for reading Matt!
      When I worked there, we constantly got complaints about the seats. The cushions are very lopsided and stained on most, some arm bars are missing. You’re lucky to never ever have a bad seat. That’s awesome.
      I will admit, cushions are better than no cushions.

  • John

    Mike, you can disagree all you want but this is a fact. Please do your research before you write an article. Thank you.

    • Mike Hirsch

      John, I can’t seem to find anything on this new deal in February 2010 that changes anything. And to be honest, if you’re right, I would not be shocked to see them go up. Parking is one of the cheapest in almost all of sports. I remember something on ESPN two seasons ago that said only the Pittsburgh Pirates have cheaper parking than the Islanders at that time. Please let me know of this information.
      I mean unless you know something I don’t know (I’d ask that you please tell me), this gives you most of the details of the lease between SMG and the Islanders.
      I know also in late December 2009 Tom Souzzi made a sub-lease that gives the Islanders more revenue streaming from the original deal in an effort to keep the Islanders from leaving NVMC. Now I don’t know the exact details of that sub-lease, but my understanding is that the Islanders did NOT make money from parking and concessions before this sub-lease. Originally SMG made that money, as well as 11% of ticket sharing, and on top of that, the Islanders have to pay $2.5 million a year in rent.
      If you could give me exact details of the new sub-lease, or this other deal in Feb., or anything that says different about the parking and concessions, I’d be glad to hear it and definitely re-write the article.
      Thanks again.