Lights out: After vote, Isles likely on move
August, 2, 2011
By Mike Mazzeo | ESPNNewYork.com
AP Photo/Kathy KmonicekIslanders fans weren't singing a happy tune after Monday's referendum on Long Island.
That's what someone asked me two days before the Islanders played host to the Rangers on Dec. 2.
"No," I replied.
Don't get me wrong: I'd read the the horror stories. I'd seen the pictures.
I'd just never experienced the "greatness" that is the Nassau Coliseum -- nicknamed the "Mausoleum" -- until that Dec. 2 night.
After covering a wild 6-5 Rangers victory and finishing my final blog entry of the evening, I realized something. I’d forgotten my suitcase in the downstairs press room.
One thing you realize quickly as a reporter at the Nassau Coliseum: It takes forever and a day to reach the locker rooms -- as well as the downstairs press room -- from the press box.
First, you have to walk a long hallway passing by several luxury suites to reach an elevator. Next, you take the elevator down to the main level concourse, where you find a curtain. You go through the curtain and a zigzagging ramp that finally leads down to the locker rooms and the downstairs press room.
Anyway, I’d just begun my descent down the zigzagging ramp when the lights went out.
When I tell you it was pitch black, I’m not kidding. I couldn’t see a darn thing.
So I decided to do what any person living in the 21st century would do: I pulled out my Blackberry to get a little natural light.
It was basically like navigating a touch tunnel at a museum. Eventually, I began my ascent back to the main concourse, found help, got the lights turned back on and retrieved my suitcase before exiting the dilapidated arena.
You’re probably wondering to yourself, "Why are you telling me this story?"
Well, on Tuesday night, the lights likely went out on the Islanders' franchise on Long Island.
The Islanders were hoping to get a brand-new, desperately needed $400 million arena -- along with a minor league ballpark. But to do so, they wanted to borrow that $400 million from Nassau County taxpayers.
The team held a referendum on Tuesday, encouraging voters to support the project. It was overwhelmingly rejected. Turnout was terrible, and the votes were 57 percent "No," 42 percent "Yes."
So now it appears the Islanders are as good as gone after 2015, when their lease in the 39-year-old building ends.
“I’m disappointed and heartbroken,” Islanders owner Charles Wang said.
So are the fans. So are those who earn their living there. After years of futility, it seemed like the franchise was finally starting to get its act together.
Many wondered why Wang couldn’t just finance the project himself, instead of raising taxes in one of the most expensive property tax areas in the entire country.
It’s a legitimate question. But it was always out of the question.
The only hope for the Islanders to remain in New York is for them to move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center -- that is, if Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov would be willing to buy them.
But Prokhorov wanted no part of the Devils, so I’m not sure he’d want any part of the Islanders either.
Of course, with Prokhorov, you never know.
He’s likely the Islanders’ last hope, though. Otherwise, the team may just find itself on its way to some place like Quebec or even Kansas City.
Remember the glory days of Trottier, Bossy and Smith? All those Stanley cups?
Those were the days. But those days are long gone.
On Dec. 2, the lights went out on me. On Aug. 1, the lights likely went out on the Islanders' franchise -- as we know it -- on Long Island.