Developer Bruce Ratner said Friday that he will remake Nassau Coliseum and the surrounding 77 acres of blacktop into a sprawling sports and entertainment complex that will become a destination for county residents for generations to come.
"This will become one of the greatest arenas in the world," Ratner, executive chairman of Forest City Ratner Cos., said at a news conference at the Coliseum.
On Thursday, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano chose Ratner for the multimillion-dollar Coliseum makeover over the other finalist, the Madison Square Garden Co.
Ratner said Friday that he hopes to relocate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the American Hockey League minor league affiliate of the New York Islanders, to the Uniondale arena after the building is renovated.
The move would require an agreement with Charles Wang, owner of the Islanders and the Sound Tigers. The Islanders are scheduled to move from the Coliseum to Ratner's Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015.
The Sound Tigers have a contract to play in Bridgeport, Conn. The team said Friday in a statement: "The Sound Tigers love being in Bridgeport and absolutely plan on spending at least the next seven AHL seasons here."
Ratner also shot down speculation that the Islanders would leave the Coliseum early. He said it's "highly likely" the team will remain for two more years, and that a final decision will come shortly. Ratner wants the Islanders to return to play at the Coliseum for four home games and two preseason games. Ratner said he did not expect the NHL to block the move. The league declined to comment.
Ratner also plans to have professional lacrosse, boxing and Arena Football League games at the scaled-down, 13,000-seat Coliseum. He is negotiating with the Atlantic 10, Big 10 and Pac 12 college basketball divisions to hold tournaments at the arena.
The Brooklyn Nets will have a preseason game and open practices at the Coliseum. Head coach Jason Kidd, who attended the news conference, will host an annual basketball clinic for area high school coaches, Ratner said. Also at the news conference was University of Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari, Islanders player Matt Martin and world light-heavyweight boxing champion Bernard Hopkins.
Ratner's $229 million proposal calls for a 2,000-seat indoor Fillmore Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater, up to seven restaurants, a bowling alley, movie theater, an ice-skating rink and retail space. He said construction, once it begins, could take about 15 to 18 months and would use all union labor.
The contract requires the approval of the county Legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board that controls the county's finances.
"We are demonstrating how we can reinvent this crucial economic center at zero cost to the taxpayer," Mangano said.
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