Forest City Wins Bid to Overhaul Nassau Coliseum

Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of New York’s Barclays Center, won a bid to take over and remodel the 41-year-old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island.

The proposal “provided the best opportunity for Nassau County residents -- one that will create jobs and opportunities, one that generates the greatest revenue for the county and completely relieves the county of costly capital expenditures,” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said today at a news conference announcing the winning bidder.

Forest City Ratner beat out Madison Square Garden Co., the owner of New York’s Knicks and Rangers, for the project to modernize the Uniondale coliseum, the oldest National Hockey League arena after Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden. The venue is home to the NHL’s New York Islanders, who are moving to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in 2015 after their Nassau lease expires.

Nassau County owns the arena and its 77-acre (31-hectare) site. The developer will pay a minimum rent of $194.5 million over the initial 34 years of the lease, $82.4 million more than Madison Square Garden proposed, Mangano said. His choice will have to be approved by the Nassau County Legislature.

The building renovations should take a year to two years to construct, Mangano said.

“It’s much more than the existing Coliseum,” he said. “There will be the development of the plaza, some outdoor activities for families to enjoy. It’s a major economic center for our county that’s been underutilized, and we look forward to really building something very exciting.”

Islanders Games

Forest City Ratner’s $229 million proposal includes at least four regular-season Islanders games each year plus a pre-season and a post-season game, as well as a game by the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets. The developer also would bring in an as-yet-unidentified minor-league team.

Bruce Ratner, the company’s executive chairman, has played up his partnership with Jay Z’s Roc Nation LLC entertainment company -- whose artists include Rihanna, Shakira and M.I.A. -- bringing the rap superstar to a presentation in May before Nassau County’s business advisory council.

Jay Z Partnership

Ratner also has teamed with Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the biggest U.S. concert promoter and ticket seller, which, together with Jay Z’s organization, would drive more than 50 concerts a year to the coliseum. All told, Ratner said he already has commitments to fill more than 200 calendar dates with events at the Long Island venue, including 38 minor-league hockey games, 54 family shows and 83 parking-lot events, such as barbecue competitions and classic-car exhibitions.

The Forest City Ratner plan would reduce the arena’s maximum capacity to about 13,000, down from the current 18,000, with configurations for as few as 4,000 seats.

Madison Square Garden Co. is “disappointed” and “will be watching closely as this process moves to the County Legislature,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “ We continue to believe that Madison Square Garden’s proposal, expertise and proven track record represent the best and most realistic opportunity to revitalize the Nassau Coliseum.”

Garden Restoration

MSG’s proposal stressed its experience managing and restoring sports and entertainment venues, including its $1 billion restoration of the Garden itself, which is now under way. The company also operates Radio City Music Hall, Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre and Chicago’s Chicago Theatre, and recently acquired the Los Angeles Forum, the former home of the NBA’s Lakers and NHL’s Kings that it’s restoring as a full-time concert venue.

Forest City Ratner offered richer terms than MSG, “a significant factor” in the selection, Mangano said. Under Forest City Ratner’s plan, the county will receive 8 percent of gross revenue and 12.75 percent of parking fees, with a guaranteed minimum of $4 million a year to the county, escalating by 10 percent every five years.

MSG’s rent was based “solely” on a payment of $1.50 for every ticket sold, Mangano said. Forest City Ratner officials will appear with him at a press conference tomorrow at the Coliseum, he said.

“We understand and proudly accept the tremendous responsibility that accompanies this project,” Bruce Ratner said in an e-mailed statement. “It is time for Nassau County to have an iconic and celebrated venue.”

Gary Harding, former president of the Islanders booster club, said he’s pleased that MSG wasn’t selected since it owns the archrival New York Rangers.

“Phew! The right guy got the bid,” he said in an e-mail. “My team is moving. I am sad. But at least the MSG people will not get to walk into the building that stands so much for Long Island history.”

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