Eight years after he hatched the Lighthouse Project in an effort to save the New York Islanders from extinction, team owner Charles Wang has found one more card to play - and it doesn't include a casino.
Wang joined Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano at the Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday to announce a scaled-back plan that includes building a new arena next to the current, aged stadium.
The pitch also has the backing of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, whose appearance at the press conference marked a huge shift in the dynamic between the Islanders and town officials.
Murray and other Hempstead pols never warmed to the Lighthouse, which at one point included the tallest building on Long Island, a hotel, offices, residential units and a conference center.
The Islanders, Mangano and union leaders and members were in Uniondale to throw their support behind the proposal, which will only move forward if county residents approve $400 million in bonds. That vote takes place on Aug. 1.
Mangano said the Islanders would pay the county back in full through revenue earned at the new Coliseum. He added that talks with Southampton's Shinnecock Indian Nation continue, but that a Nassau County casino would be located at Belmont Park.
The referendum may very well be Long Island’s last hope to keep the franchise in the region. The team’s lease expires after the 2014-2015 season, at which point the Isles could leave, though Wang has consistently said that his goal is to keep the team in Nassau County.
"This is my home, I want to stay here," Wang said in an interview following the press conference, adding that the team would not play at the current Nassau Coliseum beyond 2015, when the Isles' lease expires.
Two other NHL teams are much closer to relocating. The Atlanta Thrashers are for sale, and according to reports, suitors could move the team to any one of three Canadian cities: Winnipeg, Quebec City or Hamilton, Ontario.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Coyotes are owned by the NHL, which has desperately tried to find a group that would keep the team in Arizona. But if that effort fails, the Coyotes would leave the desert for Winnipeg well before 2015.
By the time that happens, the Isles may already be cashing in on new digs.