Bruce Ratner group wins Coliseum bid

Bruce Ratner group wins Coliseum bid

A group headed by Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner has won the rights to revamp the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and its surrounding property, beating out a competing bid from the Madison Square Garden Company.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announced the decision at a press conference Wednesday, after a months-long bid process launched after New York Islanders owner Charles Wang said he would move his franchise to the Barclays Center in 2015. 

“I am pleased to announce that [Bruce Ratner’s development group] Nassau Events Center is the successful proposal to transform the 43 year old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and plaza into an attractive, first-class destination for family fun, sports and entertainment,” said Mangano, who cited Nassau Events Center’s more favorable revenue sharing plan as a key motivator in the decision.

The selection came just over one month after MSG and Bruce Ratner’s group were selected as finalists, winnowing the field from four developers – including Long Island-based firms Blumenfeld Development Group and businessman Bernard Shereck’s New York Sports LLC – to the two largest entrants.

Mangano credited both Bruce Ratner’s group and MSG as “industry giants” who presented viable plans before the committee tasked with reviewing proposals. But he listed a series of financial figures that he said gave the edge to Nassau Events Center, and portrayed the selected plan as a financial boon for the county.

“We are grateful to be selected to revitalize Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,” wrote Bruce Ratner in a statement. “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. Our partnership group is focused and prepared to bring the best to Nassau and to fulfill the County’s goals of vital job growth and significant economic activity.”

“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. We continue to believe that Madison Square Garden’s proposal, expertise and proven track record represent the best and most realistic opportunity to revitalize the Nassau Coliseum,” wrote the Madison Square Garden Company 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.”

The proposal selected by Mangano, which is still subject to approval by the Nassau County Legislature, would see the county receive 8 percent of gross revenue and 12.75 percent of parking revenue as part of a 34-year lease, with Bruce Ratner’s group covering all development, maintenance, operating and utility costs.

Nassau Events Center’s proposal would also guarantee a minimum of $195 million in county revenue by the end of the lease, while MSG’s proposal would have guaranteed $112 million, said Mangano – a difference caused by MSG’s lower initial minimums and lower increases in rent over time.

Nassau Events Center would begin paying rent once Wang’s lease ends in 2015. The accepted plan grants the county a cut of gross revenue, while MSG’s plan would have based the county’s funds on ticket sales alone, said Mangano.

Another difference between the plans lay in each companies expectations for how development would be taxed, according John Gowell, a county attorney. 

The Coliseum and its property is county-owned and would remain tax free under both proposals. Bruce Ratner’s group plans on phasing in property taxes on new construction through an agreement with the Nassau Industrial Development Agency, while MSG sought to keep all development on the land tax-free, Gowell said.

The decision marks a milestone in a series of efforts to revamp the aging arena, which had stalled in recent years.

Wang’s Lighthouse Project, a $3.8 billion plan to redevelop the Nassau Hub, died in the face of opposition from the Town of Hempstead, and Mangano’s 2011 referendum to publicly finance a new arena was rejected by voters. Wang, who owns the New York Islanders, announced that his team would leave their long-time Uniondale digs for the Barclays Center in 2015.

Mangano urged the Legislature to approve the plan, saying the time for partisan disagreement had passed.

“I’d encourage all to get behind the ‘Long Island Yes,’” Mangano said. “Quite frankly the bickering and one-upmanship needs to stop.”

Mangano said MSG and Nassau Events Center’s plans were largely comparable in their programming, marketing and overall viability, with revenue sharing being the main distinction between the proposals.

Bruce Ratner, who advised the county on development possibilities for the site after Wang announced the Islanders’ departure, is partnering with Brooklyn Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation, New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys joint food service venture Legends, the entertainment company Live Nation, financial services company Guggenheim Partners and Barclays Center architectural firm SHoP. 

The New York Islanders would play a minimum of six games per year at the Coliseum.

The group’s plan calls for a reduction in seating from the Coliseum’s 17,686 seating capacity to 13,000, an aesthetic revamp of the arena’s interior and concrete facade, the building of a monument to Nassau’s military veterans and more than 300 annual sports, music and entertainment events. The renovations are anticipated to require a 15-month arena closure and will cost the group about $89 million.

Future development, including the rehabilitation of the existing convention center and the building of a 2,000 seat theater, a cinema and an outdoor amphitheater is projected to cost an additional $140 million.

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