Photo: Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images
New York’s Nassau Coliseum is shutting down indefinitely while seeking investors to take over operations and pick up the remaining debt on the building, according to Bloomberg. The Long Island arena is one of two homes for the NHL’s New York Islanders.
The venue’s lease is held by Onexim Sports and Entertainment, a company owned by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Potential investors were told by Prokhorov’s company that it would turn over the lease in return for assuming roughly $100 million in loans on the property. Arena employees are also being laid off.
“The unforeseeable and unprecedented Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating effect on the operations of the Coliseum and its finances,” Onexim said in a statement. “While we still believe in the enormous long term economic value of the Coliseum and the development of the surrounding land, we recognize that such value will be best realized by other parties.”
The Nassau Hub, a redevelopment project of the construction of offices, housing, and retail space on roughly 70 acres of parking lots surrounding the arena, has hit the brakes due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In 2015, the Coliseum closed for $180 million in renovations. The Islanders moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and shared the venue with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, a franchise Prokhorov owned at the time. The arena reopened two years later has hosted about 200 events a year, including concerts, minor-league basketball, and professional lacrosse.
Photo: Kathy Kmonicek/AP
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened in 1972 and has been a staple on Long Island— home of the Islanders and the club’s four consecutive Stanley Cup title runs in the 1980s and the hundreds of rock concerts including singer-songwriter Billy Joel, who played 33 sold-out shows at the arena. A banner bearing his name was raised to the rafters in 2017.
In February, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Islanders would play all of their home games at the Coliseum during the 2020-2021 season, but the pandemic has since put a damper on those plans. The Islanders announced on March 27th that construction of their new arena at Belmont Park, scheduled to open for the 2021-2022 season, had been suspended indefinitely. However, in early May, Governor Cuomo allowed construction on large projects to resume as part of his plan to reopen the state economy.
“The governor has given some indication that selective construction will start up again in some time frame. So we’re ready to go again,” Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky told ESPN. “We’re working with the contractors. Obviously, the most important thing is that you adhere to social distancing and you make sure the people on site are taking care of themselves. It’s an open-air site, still, so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to start the construction again when it’s appropriate.”
This new arena could create competition for the Coliseum if it reopens as possible investors may need to focus on the opportunity to build on the surrounding area. RXR Realty partnered with Onexim on the redevelopment project. Scott Rechler, chief executive officer of RXR Realty, said he was “confident that the people who step into their shoes will want to maximize the value of the property by having the most dynamic development possible on the site.”
“Transforming the Hub site, important before the pandemic, is now even more critical to Nassau’s economic comeback,” says Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. The county “is encouraged that Onexim is speaking to their lenders and other potential investors and we remain focused on development plans.”
By Della Young