The naming of Global Spectrum as the winner of the bid to run the XL Center and its subsequent three year deal with two one year options for the Rangers to keep AHL hockey in the building was suppose to resolve everything.
Combined with a 10 year deal for Global Spectrum with the CRDA secured everything at the XL Center. For some it ended the dreams of the Rangers going to Bridgeport with their deal expiring in the spring, For some fans they would be happy to see the Rangers leave Hartford because of their misguided, manufactured reasoning the Rangers caused the Hartford Whalers to move and for those Rangers fans in Fairfield County who would crave to see the baby Rangers in their backyard.
The news that came out of New York last week of the awarding of the management contract by the Town of Hempstead to run the Nassau Coliseum to Nassau Events Center headed by Bruce Ratner‘s company, Forest City Enterprises which built and owns the Barclay’s Center, the new sports arena building housing the NBA Brooklyn Nets and in two years will house the NHL New York Islanders,
Barclay’s bid was accepted over an MSG bid and will have a 34 year lease with the Nassau Coliseum.
Brett Cyrgalis in the New York Post wrote the following in his story on the announcement last Friday:
“(Bruce) Ratner (who won the contract to rebuild the Nassau Coliseum) also said the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, will become a main tenant of the new Coliseum once it’s completed.”
This does comport with what was learned from three sources in the spring that an offer was on the table for the Rangers to move to Bridgeport this year as they were awaiting the outcome of the XL Center management bid process.
The offer was shelved and the Rangers as we know signed the aforementioned agreement. The pathway and the opening of the door for the Rangers to go to Bridgeport in the near future could be now available with this revelation.
However, there are many steps that would have to be taken before that could ever happen and several sub-plots along the way have to be resolved and overcome.
First, the Islanders now with SMG out of the management picture would have to sign a deal with Barclay’s to void the last two years of their current lease to leave Brooklyn early, but as per the agreement Barclay’s will not take control of the building till August 1, 2015. There is still several major issues unresolved to convert the Barclay’s Arena for hockey regarding locker rooms and weight training facilities as per the new CBA agreement.
Ratner and Nassau County Executive Director Ed Mangano have indicated it is more likely the Islanders will stay the remaining two years than head to Barclays early. Can an early exit fee to SMG be worked out ? Maybe. Another piece of the puzzle
However, if those two steps are remedied Barclay’s then must submit a plan for approval to retrofit the Nassau Coliseum to a smaller facility and it must get approval by the Town of Hempstead-easier said than done. That could take at least a year for engineering studies and an outline how the building would run as a smaller facility in acquiring other events besides AHL hockey to make it operational.
Again, if all that is approved and a date to begin a retrofit of the Nassau Coliseum and a completion date deal must be reached. Then if all of those things are done in neat and tidy fashion (rarely does it). Barclays and the Islanders owner Charles Wang would then have to reach a deal with the city of Bridgeport on selecting a team to come in and assume the remainder of the Sound Tigers AHL record 20 year lease that runs to 2020-2021 originally negotiated by the late Roy Boe when he brought the defunct AHL Beast of New Haven franchise and relocated the team to the Park City in 2000-2001.
Wang acquired the Sound Tigers in the summer of 2004 when Boe who failed to pay any of his bills including his affiliation fee and was threatened with losing the franchise by the AHL as a violation of his franchise agreement.
The only escape clause for the Sound Tigers is a new hockey tenant MUST assume the lease as negotiated. It is considered the most restrictive lease in the AHL.
One of the Bridgeport sub-plots that may affect any future possibilities has been the deteriorating relationship between General Manager Howard Saffan and the Islanders. Saffan works for the organization and has been involved in running the Sound Tigers the last six years.
Independently wealthy Saffan two years ago ran afoul of owner Charles Wang for issues pertaining to the practice contract at the Twin Rinks in Shelton which Saffan owns. The Islanders subsequently executed their own deal for practice time at the Bridgeport Wonderland of Ice facility just 15 minutes from the arena on the Route 25 & 8 connector.
Safffan and the Islanders created a management company to run the Webster Arena at Harbor Yard two years ago when Center Plate a nationally known concessions company under different management, chose to not put a bid in when its 10 year contract ended.
Sources with first-hand knowledge said Global Spectrum looked at the books and declined to make a bid for the contract citing staggering red ink and that left Saffan’s group as the only one to take on the contract.
How much personal equity or other arrangements are involved are unknown, but the relationship from several sources have said is frosty.
Sub-plot two: the Rangers signed a three year deal back in February that was ratified and approved by the CRDA unanimously and in year three the CRDA must present a plan going forward for all parties to either retrofit the XL Center or build a brand new facility.
On the flip side in Hartford with a new managing company and deal with the Rangers the XL Center is entering a very sensitive stage in its now 38 year history.
Mike Freimuth, Executive Director of the CRDA was candid about this very complicated process to retrofit the building or build a brand new one.
“Do we opportunities today on either options? No. if we went for let’s say $100 million dollar retrofit people would swallow hard about that kind of money. If we asked for $400 million for a new building they might throw us out of the room. We don’t have the commitments now.” That confirms what legislative sources have told us for more than five years now.
He was able to secure bonding a year ahead of schedule to the tune of $35 million this he believes helps several processes to move forward.
“Part of that money will be to do a full analysis and study of the options. Right now were not there, but with three years to review everything we don’t tie our hands in the future by doing something today. This can’t be done in 12 months.”
During the recent XL bid process was the state aware that MSG was putting in a bid to manage the Nassau Coliseum?
“We were aware of MSG’s intentions were not ignorant of business decisions people have to make, but we want a partnership with MSG. Were all big boys and everybody has do things in their interests as we are doing things in our interests. We intend to have pro hockey here and UCONN basketball and hockey.”
Two AHL sources have said that the Glens Falls Civic Center, run by Global Spectrum, have been told there will be AHL hockey at the Civic Center after this season when the Flyers move into their new building the 8,500 seat PPL Center in Allentown, PA after five years in upstate New York.
The new tenant a relocated Sound Tigers awaiting a new building being built in Long Island? Nobody would say which organization. There are many variables to this AHL Rubik cube.
I wouldn’t gas up the moving vans just yet, but a deposit might be needed.