The future of the Nassau Coliseum could be limited to strictly hosting music events in efforts to downsize the facility, according to a Newsday report.
The owners of the New York Islanders are reportedly partnering with Oak View Group to downsize the Coliseum and turn it into a venue exclusively for music events once the Islanders move into the newly named UBS Arena in Belmont next year.
The Coliseum, known for hosting hockey games, concerts, circus shows and other entertainment events, shut its doors in mid-June due to the increased amount of debt accrued over the past five years.
Tim Leiweke, chief executive officer of Oak View Group, told Newsday that the partnership between his California-based company and the New York Arena Partners would provide neighboring venues with “synergy” in marketing, sales and bookings.
“Our concept is, what if we create one of the best and busiest music theaters in all of the country?” Leiweke told Newsday. “It is the hole in the marketplace on Long Island and we see it could become a complement to Radio City Music Hall.”
The Coliseum’s new leaseholder, Nick Mastroianni II, declined to comment to Newsday about Oak View Group’s proposal for downsizing the venue, but said, “We are getting our arms around everything so we have a full understanding of the operations.”
Efforts to reach Leiweke, Mastroianni or other officials to comment on the proposal further were unavailing.
According to Newsday, any change that comes to the lease after an operator is chosen will require approval from the County Legislature.
Nassau County officials announced in late August that a deal was struck with Nassau Live Center LLC to take immediate control of the Coliseum as its new tenant.
Officials said the agreement with Mastroianni will allow the county to recoup the unpaid rent accrued over the past several years by the Coliseum’s former leaseholder, Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire and owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, accrued more than $2 million of unpaid rent owed by his Nassau Events Center LLC.
The county issued a notice of default to Nassau Events Center LLC and its parent company, Onexim Sports and Entertainment Holdings, in mid-July to pay off $2 million in payments for the Coliseum and a surrounding 72 acres of land known as the Nassau Hub.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said both parties were on a “fast track solution” to keep the Coliseum’s doors open for future events.
“This deal follows rigorous negotiations and fulfills my main objectives – forging a path forward for sustained Coliseum operations and keeping us on track to redevelop the Nassau Hub,” Curran said in a statement. “We are pleased to have ensured a swift transfer of the lease to a new tenant eager to resume Coliseum operations and partner with us on Hub redevelopment.”
The county, as part of the agreement, preserved its 2019 development plan agreement with the Coliseum’s new tenant and developer RXR Realty to transform the currently paved Nassau Hub.
County officials granted Nassau Live a “standstill period” of 60 days with a potential 30-day extension to provide a more comprehensive plan for sustained Coliseum operations and a request for rent adjustment under the lease. The county agreed not to issue any notices of default for a lack of rent payment under Nassau Live.
In 2015, Mastroianni’s company U.S. Immigration Fund oversaw a $100 million loan for the renovation of the Coliseum from 200 Chinese investors. This was made possible through a federal program that provides people with visas in exchange for financing projects that create domestic job opportunities. The immigration fund is not affiliated with the federal government.
“Our plans are to take control, further the development plans with RXR [Realty] and work with the county to reactivate the arena,” Mastroianni told Newsday.
Curran, an Islanders fan, previously expressed disappointment in Onexim deciding to surrender its lease. Last week she said she was encouraged that Nassau Live stepped in to preserve the team’s chances of playing a final season in the Coliseum before beginning a new chapter at newly named UBS Arena, which is under construction at Belmont Park.
“We’ve made sure our Islanders can come home to Nassau for one final season at the Barn while continuing all the momentum we’ve built with our community partners on a reimaged Hub that would drive our economy and benefit our residents for generations to come,” Curran said. “Our vision for the project as a live-work-play destination anchored by a medical research and innovation district is even more important now, following the COVID-19 public health crisis.”
Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky has said he was “1,000 percent” confident the Islanders will play the 2020-21 season at the Coliseum before making the move to UBS Arena in Belmont beginning in 2021-22.