The vote is in, and it's not good news for Islanders fans. After tallying 99 percent of the votes, the Nassau County Board of Elections revealed that the residents of Nassau County have voted against Islanders owner Charles Wang's proposed $400 million plan to build a new Nassau Coliseum, by a tally of 56 percent to 43 percent. The future of the New York Islanders is now very much up in the air after their lease at the current Coliseum expires in 2015.
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Here are comments from Charles Wang after learning of the final vote, courtesy of ESPN:
Supporters of the referendum called it a last-ditch effort to keep the New York Islanders playing in the Nassau Coliseum. The team's lease expires in 2015 and the hockey team's owner, Charles Wang, has hinted he may have to move off the team off Long Island unless a new facility is built to replace the 39-year-old building.
He made no predictions about the future in brief comments before hockey fans and supporters at a gathering at the coliseum after the vote. "I'm disappointed, I'm heartbroken," the millionaire founder of software maker Computer Associates said. He promised the team would remain on Long Island until the lease expires.
To be honest, I'm not really surprised Nassau residents voted against the new arena. If this was for a football, baseball or basketball team I think it would've been a different story. As sad as it is, the relocation of an NHL team just doesn't have the same level of impact on people since the NHL just isn't as popular as other sports in the U.S. The truth is, though, the writing was on the wall for the Islanders. They've had a hard enough time filling their current arena with fans the last several years, so I really didn't think the voting would turn out in their favor.
As much as people will joke around about the Islanders' uncertain future and where they'll wind up next (myself included), the fact remains that whenever a team has to relocate it's just an unfortunate situation for their fans more than anybody else involved. Charles Wang, or any owner for that matter, always has the option of just cutting his losses and selling the team. I'm sure Wang really does want to keep the team in Long Island, but these owners are businessmen first. The fans of the team are the ones that love the team, the players, the history of the franchise and the sport. I know if I was in a position where one of my favorite sports teams was being relocated I would be devastated, as well.
There's still a chance the Islanders could remain in New York, although Long Island is likely out of the question. There are rumors the team could wind up playing in the new arena in Brooklyn once the Nets move there, but Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov said today that he has no interest in buying another sports team right now.
It certainly doesn't look good right now, but hopefully Wang and the Islanders figure something out. It would be a shame for the Rangers-Islanders rivalry to end under these circumstances.