The Failed Lighthouse Project and How it Led to the Islanders New Arena


On Saturday December 1st, the New York Islanders returned to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the first time since April 25th, 2015.

The last time the Islanders played a game at the Coliseum, they forced a deciding game 7 against the Washington Capitals during the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Unfortunately, the Islanders would be eliminated from the playoffs in that game 7, thus ending the Islanders hopes of playing at least 2 more games at the place they called home for 43 years.

In 2006, 9 years before the Islanders played their last game at the Coliseum, Charles Wang, who at the time was the Islanders owner, was trying to push for a transformation of the Coliseum and the surrounding area.

The plan would eventually become known as The Lighthouse Project. The idea was to renovate the Coliseum and build various homes, restaurants, store fronts and even Long Island’s first five-star hotel. It would also include a state of the art athletic facility, conference and exhibition centers and even a minor league baseball park.

The Lighthouse Project would cost an estimated $3.74 billion, and was expected to generate over $71 million in annual tax revenue for Nassau County. It would add 75,000 construction jobs, as well as 19,000 permanent jobs.

Eventually the original plan was downsized. On August 14th 2007 Charles Wang and the Lighthouse Development Group, partnered with Rexcorp. They changed the new design for the Coliseum, and instead of building a 60 story “Lighthouse”, they would construct two 30 story buildings connected by a footbridge.

After years of back and forth with local county executives, rumors began to swirl that Charles Wang was growing tired of how long it was taking to gain approval from Nassau County. Many people in the NHL believed that Wang would move the Islanders out of Long Island to another city if he did not receive approval for the project.

On July 12th 2010, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray (R-Hempstead), submitted a counter proposal. However, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and the developers believed the new proposal was not economically viable for both sides involved.

On August 1st 2011, Nassau County held a referendum. Residents were to decide if taxpayer funding would go towards building a new arena for the Islanders. The referendum did not pass and to the dismay of Islanders fans all across Long Island it seemed as though all hope was lost.

After the failed attempt to renovate the Coliseum and redevelop the surrounding area, many believed the Islanders would relocate to Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City was thought to be considered the most likely place for the Islanders to relocate for many years. They even played a preseason game there in 2009.

However, while Wang was trying to get approval for the Lighthouse Project, he had been looking at other locations for a new stadium, including both in Queens and in Brooklyn. Wang had been discussing building a stadium adjacent to Citi Field in the Willets Point section of Queens. Although Wang spoke at length with New York Mets owners Jeff and Fred Wilpon nothing ever came to fruition.

Rumors had also come about that Wang had spoken to the New Jersey Nets, now the Brooklyn Nets, who at the time were constructing the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

On October 24th 2012, after many years of hopelessness, The Islanders announced that they had come to an agreement with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn that would allow them to play there after their lease at the Coliseum expired at the end of the 2014-2015 NHL season.

Unfortunately, the Barclays Center was not built with the intention of being home to a hockey team. Although the original plans for the stadium did include the necessities to house an NHL team, they were scrapped for a different design.

The mess of a stadium that is the Barclays Center has proven to be a less than ideal home for the Islanders. Since their move they have suffered from poor attendance due to the commute, as well as the many obstructed views throughout the arena, attribute to this move being unsuccessful.

The Barclays Center was always thought to be a temporary home for the Islanders as it barely meets NHL standards. The idea of the Barclays Center being a temporary home for the Islanders began to pick up steam after the team submitted a bid to build a brand new arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

Also fueling the speculation was the fact that the Nassau Coliseum had been since renovated and it became a possibility that the Islanders would return to their original home.

After submitting their bid for, many people believed the Islanders would be selected to redevelop Belmont Park. And on December 20th 2017 the Islanders officially won the bid and were selected to build a brand new arena at Belmont Park.

After winning the bid, Islander fans were ecstatic. After years of waiting and wondering they had finally gotten approval for a new arena.

Then on June 21st 2018 Islanders fans received even more good news. The Islanders were going to play 12 regular season games at the Coliseum during the upcoming season. This number was eventually increased to 21 games shorty before the 2018-2019 season began.

When the Lighthouse Project fell through it seemed as though it was all over for the Islanders and their fans. However, with the new Belmont Park Redevelopment Project and the splitting of games between the Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum new life has been breathed into the Islanders and their ever loyal fans.