Thursday, March 5, 2009

Charles Wang Talks to Howie Rose About the Lighthouse

For those of you who may not have a chance to see it, here are some notes from Howie Rose's interview with Charles Wang on tonight's MSG+ pre-game show...

Rose asked Wang about a drop-dead date for getting approval (something I tried and failed to get from the Lighthouse Development Group just eight days ago—timing!) for the Lighthouse project. Wang said, "We have limited time. We have to have certainty." He then specifically pointed to the beginning of next hockey season as the time by which the organization needs to know if this development project is going forward.

While discussing the possibility of other options, Wang again emphasized that his focus, his love, and his passion is to do this on Long Island.

In regard to the language in the Environmental Impact Study that says the Islanders will leave the venue if the project is not approved, Wang declared that Nassau Coliseum will not be a viable venue for the Islanders to play hockey in by the time the current lease expires.

The Lighthouse group is working on the new lease for the Lighthouse with the County in parallel with the efforts to get the Town of Hempstead to approve the project. In relation to this, the subject of the Islanders' out was revisited: once the developers and the County hammer out a new lease, the County legislature has 120 days to approve it. If they fail to do so in that time, the Islanders are free to explore other options.

Rose wanted to know if 100 percent of the project needs to be approved by the Town of Hempstead in order for the development to go forward. Wang first responded with a little history on the project, reminding everyone that the County, which owns the land and the arena, couldn't afford to fix the Coliseum or continue to run it. The County decided instead to develop the surrounding land parcel and chose the Lighthouse group to do it after a Request for Proposals process. Wang then offered that there is the possibility of further negotiation within the proposal, and referred to the changes in the height of the original tower plan as an example of his willingness to make changes.

Wang was not cautious about admitting that he has trepidation about securing financing for the Lighthouse if the project is approved. He actually said that he has "tremendous trepidation." But he can't really pursue that aspect of the project now because you can't finance virtual space, and he would be wasting time trying to negotiate at this point, when the final plans have not yet been adopted.

Addressing the idea of taxpayer contributions to the project, Wang said he would like to have help on some infrastructure stimulus, and that is worked into the project. "Whatever help we can get, especially in this economic time, we welcome."

Finally, Wang urged all supporters to get involved because if the project fails to go through, it's his fault, but it's also the public's fault because of the officials that have been elected. But, as he stated earlier in the interview, he is optimistic that they will work through the process.

(This post was originally published at

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