Do you remember where you were seven years ago today?
On Aug. 1, 2011, I went for a run in the village of Rockville Centre, saw the determined looks on the faces of the residents marching into South Side Middle School, and knew it right away.
The public vote to build a new arena on the Coliseum property for the Islanders was going to be a big, fat, no frickin' way.
Hard to believe how long this has gone on, eh? I had coffee last week with a good friend, one of the Islanders' PR directors before me, and he said Bill Torrey had an architect's drawings of a new Islanders arena in his office…in the mid-1980s.
Then we had Howard Milstein and "pigs at the trough," John Spano and his tiny problem of not having any actual money, and Charles Wang and "Meet Me at the Lighthouse."
(I'm sure I've blocked out plenty of drama in-between).
But it all seemed to come down to Aug. 1, 2011. A few months earlier, County Executive Ed Mangano announced there would be a public vote on whether the county should spend $400 million on a new arena, a minor league baseball stadium, and some convention space.
When Mangano made his announcement, ESPN.com was starting a new micro-site in New York. The editor asked me to bang out an opinion piece. At that precise moment, I felt it was the Islanders' vote to lose. If the team promoted their stance and marketed the arena's importance properly, the vote would pass.
They didn't. And out of all the countless things I've been wrong about in my life -- I'll still always believe Jeremy Colliton should have had a better and longer career, just turns out he's a great head coach -- that column on the Islanders' arena vote is right up there among loads of competition as the dumbest.
Nassau Democrats worked hard and spent resources to fight it. When my mom told me a few weeks before the vote that she was getting ten robo-calls a day informing her why Nassau and the Islanders' arena plan was evil, I knew it didn't have a chance.
The day before the vote, New York Times reporter Ken Belson got this quote from a Garden City resident that said it all about the vote: "It's a Catch-22," the man said. "If it's passed, our taxes are going to go up. If it fails, our taxes are going to go up."
Mangano held the special vote on a Monday in August -- at a cost of $2 million to taxpayers (Wang said he'd foot the bill if it passed; vintage Charles). If you recall, the Long Island Railroad had massive delays for the commute home. A lot of Islanders fans were freaking out that they didn't get to vote.
It wasn't meant to be. The Islanders lost by 13 percent. Wang said he was "disappointed" and "heartbroken." I wrote on Point Blank, "Perhaps finally, for the first time since he bought the team eleven years ago, Wang will publicly dance with other municipalities." Mangano called it "a great day" because the public had their say.
Today, Nassau is still the highest taxed county in the United States of America.
Instead of the $400 million new Coliseum, the old barn of Hempstead Turnpike got a $165 million tune-up. Until the Islanders start playing there regularly again for a few years, starting this season, the place is a ghost town -- averaging about one concert a month.
Back in 2007, Mangano, that visionary, said there wasn't a Plan B.
B ended up standing for Brooklyn.
And now, think about it. Ten years after the failed vote, on Aug. 1, 2021, a new Islanders arena is expected to rise on the Belmont property.
Could you have a predicted this part seven years ago? A consortium of owners has pledged to pay $1 billion to make the Belmont barn a reality. The group consists of the Islanders' Scott Malkin, along with the Madison Square Garden Company (aka James Dolan), Sterling Equities (aka the Wilpon family), and OakView Group (an MSG-partnered group front by Tim Leiweke).
While the Governor, NHL commissioner, Islanders owners and state authorities insist a shovel is absolutely, positively going into the ground by the spring of 2019, one of the potential hurdles is the cost for the Long Island Railroad to be able to produce regular service to and from Belmont Park.
That plan Mr. Torrey had in his office more than thirty years ago? You betcha -- it included a railroad stop by the Coliseum.
One could lose their mind adding up all of the ironies. As a friend said on the train to Manhattan this morning, "I love this team. I've stood by them through everything. With this arena in Belmont, I'll believe it when I'm sitting there next to my son at a game."
Believe. It's what we do in Islanders Country.