Published November 20, 2014
Nassau County residents voted down a $400 million referendum in Monday's special election that could have led to the construction of a new home for the New York Islanders, according to The Associated Press.
With 62 percent of the vote reported, opponents of the referendum carried 58 percent of the vote.
County officials who supported the effort said a yes vote was needed to give officials enough time to build a replacement for the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before the Isles' lease expires in 2015. Without a new building, team owner Charles Wang has said he may have to move the team out of Nassau County, either to another site on Long Island or to another market.
Turnout was extremely light on Monday as only about 15 percent of residents turned out to vote before polls closed at 9 p.m. Bad weather in the afternoon and trouble with Long Island Rail Road service may have contributed to low turnout, according to observers.
Proponents of the project, including labor unions, tourism officials and many business groups, argued that the project will bring jobs and spark economic growth. Opponents, though, won the vote, insisting that already heavily taxed residents should not have to foot the bill for the arena project.
The plan, if approved, would have the county borrow the $400 million through a general obligation bond.
With the Barclays Center opening next year and Madison Square Garden undergoing a complete renovation, the departure of the Islanders would likely mean the eventual demise of the Coliseum, the only home the team has had since entering the NHL in 1972. The Islanders recently asked the county for $4 million dollars for a series of repairs, including fixes to the roof, some lower-bowl seating and the ice plant.
Wang has been trying to find a new place for the Islanders to play instead of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1972. The team's lease with the building expires in 2015, and the current plan would be for the Islanders to move into the new arena at the start of the 2015-16 season.
The most prominent of Wang's plans was deemed "The Lighthouse Project," but the owner was unable to gain approval for the plan from the Town of Hempstead. The project -- which would have been privately financed -- came with an estimated cost of $3.74 billion that included a refurbished Coliseum, a minor-league baseball stadium and various other housing, hotels and businesses in the area.
"I think we have to face the reality of the situation,” Wang said prior to Monday's vote. “We don’t have a place to play anymore, because come 2015, our lease expires. … We have to have a place to play, so we’re out of options basically."