Islanders One Step Closer to Hiring Moving Vans
When it was all over, the Islanders were one day closer to welcoming invitations from municipalities outside Nassau County, and Kansas City had failed miserably in its attempt to make an impression.
The Islanders and Los Angeles Kings played an exhibition game Tuesday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. While Islanders players and coaches were wowed by the facility, the 50-percent-capacity crowd at the game did nothing to stamp the great Missouri city as a serious contender for an NHL franchise. The Islanders even scratched 2009 first overall pick John Tavares, saving him for the team's game against the Devils Wednesday on Long Island.
With the Kansas City event hitting with a thud, the No. 1 story was at Hofstra University from 9 in the morning until 9 at night. There, Wang and co-developer Scott Rechler absorbed a steady stream of questions and complaints from Town of Hempstead officials about the Lighthouse Development. On more than a few occasions, tensions ran high -- including several "Let me finish!" fights. Frustrated by what Wang perceived as inappropriate comments from a town councilman, Wang said, "Please stop badgering our consultant."
As arguments were raised by advocates and opponents, the tension never left the room. When the hearing ended at 9 PM, Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray asked for those in favor of the Lighthouse Project to stand up. Approximately 95 percent of the auditorium did.
Wang told FanHouse Tuesday night that he has been committed to keeping the Islanders in Nassau County since he bought the franchise in 2000 and remains so, even after losing more than $20 million a year with an outdated facility and crippling lease. "Our group has been honest, we've worked hard, we've met our deadlines, we've invested a lot of money," said Wang. "We want this thing to go through."
However, the Islanders owner's deadline for "certainty" from the Town of Hempstead remains Oct. 3, the night of his team's season opener at home against Pittsburgh. With less than two weeks to go -- and after all the questions and animosity brought by the town board at Tuesday's marathon hearing -- it's impossible to envision Wang getting his answers. Lighthouse leaders point to approvals they have received from the Department of Transportation and Department of Public Works and their completion of an Environmental Impact Statement. Hempstead board members are not satisfied. Councilman Anthony Santino said the process was "like trying to nail Jell-o to a wall."
Lighthouse Development Corp. president Michael Picker told FanHouse Tuesday night that he's "proud" of his group's efforts to listen to the neighboring community and allow residents to shape the project. "There were some tense moments today," said Picker, "but that's to be expected. We have been successful in getting our message out for the last several years. The Town of Hempstead has more than 800,000 residents. With the exception of one civic association from one part of one village, there has never been any serious opposition. We'd like to believe our hosting of over 200 public meetings had something to do with it."
Picker, Wang and Rechler refuse to discuss in detail what happens in two weeks if Hempstead does not respond. Queens, Brooklyn and Kansas City are among eight municipalities that have expressed interest in the Islanders to the NHL. Southern Ontario is believed to be poking around. "I don't know," said Picker. "We want to stay optimistic. If the date passes we'll see."
The date will pass. After Oct. 3, the Islanders will listen to offers from any city that wants a National Hockey League franchise. The game of chicken continues.