Isles owner's group chosen to renovate Coliseum

MINEOLA, N.Y. -- A group headed by the owner of the New York Islanders was selected Thursday to renovate the Nassau Coliseum as part of a $1.6 billion development project, Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi said.

Besides renovating the 36-year-old hockey and basketball arena in Uniondale, the proposal submitted by Islanders owner Charles Wang and his partners -- Long Island developer Reckson & Associates -- calls for a canal lined with retail shops, residential housing, office space, transportation and infrastructure improvements and the construction of a minor-league baseball park.

The proposal still needs the approval of a spectrum of town and county review boards, a process Suozzi conceded could take up to two years.

Suozzi, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, had selected Wang to redevelop the coliseum property more than a year ago. But when county legislators and others balked, he was forced to open the project to competitive bidding. Four groups, including one headed by Mets owner Fred Wilpon, made pitches to develop the property before Wang's group was selected.

Suozzi acknowledged that part of the equation in naming Wang's group was his ownership of the Islanders. Wang, who did not immediately return a call for comment, had held preliminary discussions with officials in neighboring Suffolk County about a possible move of his hockey franchise east.

"There was always, I think, a general understanding of anybody who looks at this reasonably that if we didn't do something we'd lose the Islanders," Suozzi said. "This deal now ... is even better. We have certainty that we have the Islanders until 2025."

The new coliseum will have a capacity of about 17,000 and feature luxury skyboxes and other amenities now standard in modern sports arenas. The current facility, which has been plagued by water pipe leaks and other maintenance headaches, has a capacity of 16,300.