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  Nassau Needs New Ice, Not New Diamonds

The August 1 referendum is fast approaching when Nassau County voters will vote on the proposed raising of $400 million in bonds to help finance the construction of a new multi-purpose arena as well as a minor-league baseball stadium. It’s important to be clear on what’s at stake. Unfortunately as usual, the politicians and their bed-fellows have bit off more than the people of the county need to chew and it’s this extra unnecessary scrap on the plate of the taxpayer that’s tough to swallow.

I’m sure we all can agree that this new arena, serving primarily as the new home of the New York Islanders, is long overdue. The 4-time Stanley Cup Champion hockey club has played in the oldest barn in the NHL for too long as it is. Even if approved, the new facility would still be years in the offing. The team was born and raised on the Hempstead Plain and it would be a tragedy of colossal proportions for Long Island to force the Isles to move because a new “Coliseum” can’t be built.

We could also agree that the Lighthouse Project was a rather excessive endeavor for someone seeking a new building for his hockey team. I’ve always felt that Islanders’ ownership should set the realistic goal of getting a new arena built, first and foremost. That’s the urgent matter at hand, that’s what’s needed to keep the Islanders here. We now have that proposition put before the people of Nassau County. There’s MORE here, though.

The deal we’ve heard of includes not only the “new Coliseum, “ but a new minor-league baseball stadium to be built on the Mitchel Field area property as well! Seems someone’s trying to ride into Uniondale on the coattails of the Islanders. Sort of a “…well, while you guys have your shovels out, I’d like a new ballpark! …It’ll brings lots of JOBS…blah-blah.” The politicos and the bed-fellows like to play the “Increased-Revenue” and the “New-Jobs” cards. That’s their spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. The minor-league ballpark piece of the plan should be scrapped to save the taxpayers the burden of paying for something that’s really not necessary.

We have the best major league baseball market in the nation and both the Mets and the Yankees have minor-league clubs within easy travel distance from central Nassau. There’s already an unaffiliated minor league team in Suffolk. To add yet another one – same basic concept, same ballpark, same league, same ownership, same act that’s been playing out there for 10 years – is not needed at all, especially with the people of Nassau paying for this enterprise that for the most part, just puts more money in someone else’s pocket. Here’s where the same old “increased revenue, new jobs” tune gets played. Sorry. Perhaps in a better economic climate. The people of Nassau shouldn’t have to “duck” when this proposal comes their way because it doesn’t FIT the “bill” while they have to FOOT the “bill.”

The August 1 referendum is should be about the new arena and the new arena only and the year-round (here it comes…) revenue and jobs it will bring to the county from concerts, conventions, and most of all, the home games of the 4-time Stanley Cup Champion Islanders. That’s ALL that’s needed and that’s ALL that should be built.

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