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Islanders Fans Have Already Circled August 1 on Their Calendars

Imagine for a moment that you're a resident of Nassau County. (This will be easy if you are, in fact, a resident on Nassau County.) On August 1, you'll likely be asked to vote on a referendum that would allow the county to borrow up to $400 million to construct a new arena for the Islanders, as well as a minor-league baseball stadium nearby. You've been told by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano that revenue from the Islanders and sales tax generated by the arena would pay back $400 million in bonds, but, as of today at least, he hasn't provided the details of that revenue-sharing plan, and the state watchdog group that oversees the county's finances says it's "deeply concerned" about the whole proposal. If the referendum is approved, and the arena gets the go-ahead, it will keep the team on Long Island until at least 2045. If the plan fails, and the Islanders don't have upgraded facilities in place when their Nassau Coliseum lease runs out in 2015, there's a very real chance the team will move to another city. What do you do?

This is what Nassau County residents will have to decide, now that plans have been announced for a new arena that would be constructed next to Nassau Coliseum. First, a majority of the nineteen-member county legislature must vote to put the referendum on the ballot, but assuming that happens, voters will go to the polls on August 1. That timing is important, writes Chris Botta, at ESPN New York:

The key here is Aug. 1. Think about it. The vote is not going to be on Election Day, when tens of thousands of Nassau residents would be in position for a knee-jerk rejection of a $400 million expense by a bankrupt county. (The fact is, county taxes are not expected to go up if Wang gets the dough for his building on the Coliseum property. The bond will be covered by eventual revenue from the new facility.)

Indeed, Mangano said that the plan "is intended to not cost taxpayers a single dime." But the details of that revenue-sharing agreement are not yet publicly known. From Newsday:

However, pressed for details about the revenue-sharing agreement -- and whether those figures would be available to the public before the August vote -- Mangano said, "If it can be done, it will be."

Neither Mangano nor Wang was able to provide specific dollar figures regarding what county residents should expect back in return for the $400 million bonding approval.

Mangano said Nassau would first need to commit to building and financing a new Islanders arena and baseball park before revenue-sharing agreements can be finalized.

That said, according to another Newsday report, "Mangano said more details would come before the Aug. 1 vote."

If voters approve the plan, it would then go back to that nineteen-member county legislature, where thirteen votes would be required to approve it. And if voters don't approve it? "I don't want to contemplate that right now," said Islanders owner Charles Wang. Wang has repeatedly said that he wants to keep the team on Long Island, but Islanders fans are well aware of the worst-case scenario here. "We can't say we've succeeded yet, but we hope this one will work," said Wang, who would have funded the Lighthouse Project, a failed proposal that would have included a renovated Nassau Coliseum. So August 1 is the big day. It'll either be a huge step towards keeping the team on Long Island — or a huge blow to those trying to do so.

Mangano, Wang want new Islanders arena [Newsday]
Coliseum 'revenue-share' short on detail [Newsday]
NY voters to decide on plan for new hockey arena [AP]
A summer blockbuster on Long Island [ESPN New York]

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images