$350m PPP could save NY Islanders

The lease that holds the Nassau Coliseum – located in the county that bears its name – and the NY Islanders hockey team together will soon expire. And unless the parties allow private capital to help finance a new facility, each may go their separate ways.

Nassau Coliseum, situated in Nassau County, is in jeopardy of losing its stature as host to the New York Islanders National Hockey League (NHL) sports team. But recent discussions on forming a public-private partnership (PPP) to develop a new sports arena – which could be worth upwards of $350 million – have reinvigorated hope of averting a breakup.

Earlier this week, the Nassau County Legislature held a public meeting at which local officials and private developers discussed financing options to revitalise the Nassau Hub, which is a 12-square mile section in the middle of the county that is deemed an economic centre. It is where landmark buildings such as the Nassau Coliseum are located and where a new hockey facility could ideally be constructed, many hope.

The county does not want to lose the NY Islanders or the revenue stream tied to having home-field advantage. Nonetheless, the fate of the team and its allegiance hangs in the balance. After several failed attempts to structure a project as anything but a PPP, this model, along with all other financing options, is now on the table, sources suggested to Infrastructure Investor.

It is, however, unclear whether the public component of the financing would involve federal, state or local grants, but county officials may be meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in coming days to discuss this.

The 40-year old venue – one of the oldest in the nation – needs to be rebuilt, with the hockey team’s lease set to expire in 2015. A new facility could theoretically be constructed in time and private capital may be the linchpin for the project.

The NY Islanders sole owner, Charles Wang, refuses to renew the lease in four years unless there is a plan for a new arena. Public taxpayers are not willing to foot the bill, the county cannot afford to finance the project because of budget shortfalls and a plan to completely privatise ownership was nixed because of zoning issues.

The ‘puck’, the county has suggested, is in the team’s court. “We look forward to obtaining a privately financed plan from the NY Islanders to build a new coliseum,” according to a statement by Nassau County.

Wang, on the other hand, appears to be awaiting the move of local officials. In the meantime, the NY Islanders are sporting a record of about 500, which appears to imitate the divide between the county and the team.