There are lots of old buildings on Long Island. The North Shore, Gatsby-like houses tend to be too old to fix up and too expensive to maintain. But one of Long Island’s oldest structures that has always deserved attention and gotten little respect is the Nassau Coliseum. Whether by luck or circumstance, the Coliseum is now a hot topic.
Built over 40 years ago, due to the efforts of the late County Executive Eugene Nickerson, it has stood as a monument to government paralysis and indifference. One county official after another has come up with suggestions about modernizing the aging facility or demolishing it to make way for a massive commercial enterprise. It has undergone only one change in all those years, and that was a change of name to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The owner of the New York Islanders, Charles Wang, made the most lavish proposal to redevelop the arena property and replace it with the Lighthouse project. Wang had a vision of a modern arena, housing and other attractions. While he had the support of the county, the town, which is responsible for the property’s zoning, wanted no part of the Lighthouse project.
Now, to his credit, the current county executive, Ed Mangano, has solicited proposals to transform the arena into a modern center of arts, sports and business. Partially out of vision and also a need for new county revenue, Mangano has stimulated some serious debate about the future of this white elephant that sits dark for most of the year.
Four bidders have come forward with comprehensive proposals to turn the building into a sleek, modern attraction that could be an enormous asset to a region that is home to over 3 million people. All of the bidders have offered substantial infusions of money to either rebuild the Coliseum or tear it down and replace it with a new entertainment complex.
While most of the bids are attractive, the bidders all seem to agree that the newer building must be smaller than the current one, and must be part of a complex that will attract people throughout the year. Long Island could use a venue that will bring in people from all over the downstate region, and this could be its last best hope.