A decade-long effort to renovate an aging and dilapidated suburban New York sports arena moved a step closer to fruition on Thursday when officials chose the company that recently opened Brooklyn's Barclays Center to redevelop the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and its surrounding 77-acre property.
The selection of Nassau Events Center, LLC over The Madison Square Garden Co. for the $229 million job was announced by County Executive Edward P. Mangano following a months-long competition that initially involved four bidders.
"By having The Madison Square Garden Company compete with us on this development demonstrates the significance of this project and both of our companies' commitment to Long Island," said Bruce Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies. "We are ready to get to work to deliver a world-class coliseum and a thriving sports, entertainment and retail center that Long Island deserves."
The announcement comes nearly a year after the coliseum's primary tenant, the National Hockey League's New York Islanders, said the team would move from the coliseum to the new Barclay's arena after the 2015 season.
The plan still requires the approval of the Nassau County Legislature, but observers said it was likely the GOP majority in the legislature would go along with the Republican county executive's selection.
"While we are disappointed with the county's decision, we are not at all surprised given the history of this project, and will be watching closely as this process moves to the county legislature," MSG said in a statement. "We remain deeply supportive of the efforts to create a rich and vibrant destination for all Long Island residents, and sincerely hope that, regardless of today's decision, Long Island ultimately gets the world-class destination it deserves."
Both Ratner, the developer behind the Barclays Center, and MSG have experience in running sports and entertainment arenas in the New York area.
The finalists had engaged in high-profile television and print advertising campaigns while vying for the right to develop the property. A public session to discuss the proposals last spring featured an appearance by music mogul and hip-hop star Jay Z, whose company is affiliated with the Ratner group.
Nassau County officials and others have been struggling to renovate the coliseum, built in 1972, for nearly a decade. In 2004, the Islanders' billionaire owner, software executive Charles Wang, proposed a massive redevelopment of the property that would have included a soaring 60-foot office and condominium tower. That proposal failed to win either community or municipal support after residents expressed concerns about traffic and other issues.
Two years ago, voters rejected a referendum backed by Mangano that would have allowed $400 million in borrowing for the construction of a new hockey arena and ballpark.
Mangano stressed Thursday that the construction will be a "100 percent privately financed" project that will "share revenue with the county at zero expense to the taxpayer."