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Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Yormark wants to bring BK success to L.I.

By Michael Woods

The jousting between Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden resonates as a significant tussle between industry giants. They've been competing for content and buzz of late, and now they are going head-to-head on a mega-million dollar project on Long Island.

Barclays Center wants to renovate the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which opened its doors in Uniondale, N.Y., in 1972. For the past 10 years, plans have been hatched to refurbish the building, which is home to the NHL Islanders. It looks like this time the overhaul will get beyond the conception stage. There are four bidders to helm the project, and the two heavyweights, Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, are each touting their bids. (Along with MSG and Barclays Center, Blumenfeld Development Group and New York Sports & Entertainment, LLC of Long Island, are in contention to present the most promising package by July 15.)

I sat down with Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark last week, and the 46-year-old executive told me why he thought the Barclays crew, which boasts the presence of Barclays developer Bruce Ratner, was the right group to refashion the Coliseum. Yormark said that if Nassau County executive Edward Mangano and the county legislature accept the Barclays bid, boxing would be a hallmark of the renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, much in the same way it is at Barclays.

"We've been able to do exactly what we hoped for when we opened Barclays Center and more, and that's to bring an incredible sport, boxing, back to Brooklyn, where it has a heritage, and have it flourish," Yormark said. "And in less than a year, we've been able to do that, bring an incredible sport back to Brooklyn where it has heritage. We feel there is an opportunity to take what we're doing here and replicate it in Long Island."

The Barclays package is slated at $229 million, which includes a retail component, a movie theater, restaurants and an ice rink in the winter. They are touting their team, which includes concert giant Live Nation, rapper Jay-Z and his Roc Nation company, and the architects and designers who conceived of the Barclays structure. Seating capacity at the overhauled Coliseum would be 13,000, and there would be an inside theater, which could house smaller events with seating in the 4,000-8,000 range.

I asked Yormark if there is a danger the Barclays bid doesn't get embraced because of lingering resentment that the Islanders, owned by Charles Wang, will leave Long Island and make their home at Barclays Center when their lease is up in 2015.

"I don't think so," he said. "Had Barclays not stepped up, chances were Charles Wang could have left the entire market. We plan to put six regular-season games out there. I hear from fans who are ecstatic that the Islanders will still be connected to the community. The decision will come down to who can execute, who can deliver ... and we think we've exceeded everyone's expectations."

Check back later today for specifics on how much boxing we would see at the revamped Coliseum and learn why the MSG people think their bid is best.

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