After a hotly contested bidding war for the redevelopment of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, New York, Nassau Entertainment Committee (NEC), led by the Forest City Ratner group, was selected by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his team.
The four bidding groups were Forest City, which developed the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn; a partnership led by the Madison Square Garden Company; and facility management firms SMG and Global Spectrum, both separately partnered with local developers. MSG and NEC were considered to be the two front runners; SMG was the incumbent.
NEC is Forest City partnered with Billboard parent Guggenheim Partners (which recently bought such properties as the L.A. Dodgers and Dick Clark Productions); Yankees investment group Legends on the hospitality side; Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports & Entertainment on the sports front; and, on the content side, Live Nation and Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Also on board is Barclays Center designer SHoP Architects.
The NEC bid calls for downsizing the arena from its current capacity of about 18,000 to around 13,000, with a theater configuration of 4,000-8,000 in the lower bowl. A 15-month construction project would cost about $89 million. Long term plans are for a retail/entertainment footprint that includes a Fillmore-sized theater from Live Nation, a movie theater, a 2,500-cap amphitheater, and 50,000 square-feet of restaurant/retail space. NEC estimates total costs for the continued development to be approximately $140 million, with the entire project costing about $229 million in private money.
In a statement, Forest City Ratner executive chairman Bruce Ratner thanked Managano and his team for a “transparent and well-managed process.” He added, “We are ready to get to work to deliver a world-class Coliseum and a thriving sports, entertainment and retail center that Long Island deserves. Our partnership group is focused and prepared to bring the best to Nassau and to fulfill the County’s goals of vital job growth and significant economic activity.”
NEC was an aggressive bidder in the early stages, taking out ads in New York media touting the strength of the team, and Forest City’s recent success in Brooklyn. NEC also enjoyed a bit of an inside track, as Forest City was chosen by Nassau County executive Edward Mangano last October for a feasibility study regarding the viability of the Coliseum and that market once the National Hockey League’s Islanders set sail for Brooklyn.
But MSG made a strong push, partnered with developer the Cordish Companies (the industry leader in developing entertainment districts around anchor venues) and architectural firm SCI Architects P.C. & BBB (overseeing the current $1 billion transformation of MSG and the $75 million renovation of Forum in L.A.), RXR Realty, and investment firm Jones Lang LaSalle, also involved in both the Garden and Forum projects.
MSG’s plan for the arena included flex capacity from 14,500 (highest of the four bids) down to 1,700 seats, They project 330 events annually, including 150 free community events, along with the Long Island Live! entertainment district from Cordish. Private investment of $250 million was earmarked for the project and, as opposed to a multi-phase development, the arena and district projects would go up concurrently.
Perhaps as a show of respect to its increasingly competitive relationship with MSG, Ratner added in his statement, “Having The Madison Square Garden Company compete with us on this development demonstrates the significance of this project and both of our companies’ commitment to Long Island. We are honored to be chosen to deliver a vibrant attraction for a Nassau like never before.”
Added Madison Square Garden in a statement: “While we are disappointed with the County’s decision, we are not at all surprised given the history of this project, and will be watching closely as this process moves to the County Legislature. 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. We remain deeply supportive of the efforts to create a rich and vibrant destination for all Long Island residents, and sincerely hope that, regardless of today’s decision, Long Island ultimately gets the world-class destination it deserves.”