By Peter Schwartz
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As the Islanders tried year after year to get a new arena on Long Island, I was convinced that there would eventually be an agreement that would see the Nassau Coliseum either replaced or renovated.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that the team would ever leave the only home it had ever known.
Even after the failed Lighthouse Project, I still felt that somehow a deal would be reached. Then came the referendum to build a new Coliseum and I really thought it was going to go through.
But it didn't and it wasn't long after that when owner Charles Wang announced that the Islanders would be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
But even without the Islanders, Long Island still needed a new arena and there was still this matter of developing the "hub." Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano then announced that he was going to accept bids from private investors to renovate the Coliseum and develop the surrounding land.
It came down to Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner and Madison Square Garden as the finalists. Ultimately, Ratner's Nassau Events Center group provided the winning bid. At that point, still ticked off about the Islanders leaving, I said I would believe that there would be a new Coliseum when I saw the shovel in the ground.
Or a sledgehammer to a wall, which is what I saw on Thursday at the groundbreaking for the new Nassau Coliseum.
It was a festive event attended by the developers, politicians, union leaders, media and invited guests. One dignitary after another took a sledgehammer to a wall on the side of the box office to officially start the renovation process.
While I'm happy to report that I was able to secure a piece of that wall as a keepsake, I was also pleased to find out that seats from the Coliseum are going to be made available through Steiner Sports. You can order the seats here.
Soon, residents will soon be able to sit in brand new seats at the new Nassau Coliseum. After years and years and political red tape along with the collateral damage of losing our only major professional sports team, Long Island is finally going to have a state of the art arena.
And that's a good thing even without the Islanders, who, according to the plan, will play six games a year at the new Coliseum, which is expected to open in the winter of 2016.
There are going to be residents who have a ho-hum feeling about this and there are going to be some people who claim that they will never step foot in the place because of the Islanders' departure.
But at the end of the day, Long Island is going to have a destination for sports, concerts, and family shows, along with the other components of the project being built, including retail and entertainment.
Taking the Islanders out of the equation, I couldn't be more excited about what lies ahead. According to Nassau Events Center, the new Coliseum project is expected to create more than 1,035 direct construction jobs and more than 570 additional, indirect and induced jobs in Nassau County.
From my perspective, Long Island has to have an arena regardless of whether or not it has a major pro team. While the Coliseum is being renovated, a Long Island resident who wants to go see a concert, sporting event, or family show has to travel to Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden, or the Prudential Center.
But come the winter of 2016, the doors on Hempstead Turnpike will re-open to the tune of hundreds of annual events that will include professional and collegiate sports, boxing, concerts, and family shows. I'm looking forward to many enjoyable days or evenings with my family at the new venue.
I will still go to Islanders games at Barclays Center, but the new Coliseum is going to have plenty of attractive options in my own backyard. I'm definitely going to see minor league hockey, arena football, college hoops, or any of the other events that are coming to Long Island.
I have so many wonderful memories from the old Nassau Coliseum. While many of them were Islanders games, there were other events that still resonate with me like Billy Joel, New York Arrows soccer games, the circus, car shows, New York Saints lacrosse, and many others.
When the new Coliseum opens its doors, I'll be excited to create new memories with my family at an arena that will make Long Island proud. I'll take those six Islanders games and everything that comes with them because the new Nassau Coliseum is something that will be very important for the community.
The groundbreaking on Thursday was my fifth and final goodbye to the original building. I took my son to the Islanders' final regular season game, went to the Islanders' last playoff game, took my family to the big closeout sale at the team store, and then went with my wife to the Billy Joel concert that closed the building.
I'm finished with goodbyes. I'm ready to say hello to the new Nassau Coliseum and all of the great entertainment that lies ahead.
See you next winter.
Don't forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @Nassau_Coliseum and @barclayscenter
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