this makes too much sense.. it has to come together
Mets Owners Working With Real Estate Firm on Queens Arena for Islanders
- Say Something »
6/14/2010 10:30 AM ET By Christopher Botta
- Christopher Botta
- Senior NHL Writer
The owners of the New York Mets have begun discussions with a leading real estate firm to strategize for a potential arena in Queens that would house the NHL's New York Islanders, an industry source has told FanHouse.
Jones Lang LaSalle, the project management company for the upcoming $775-850 million renovation of Madison Square Garden, has begun work on a feasibility study for an Islanders arena at Willets Point -- the property surrounding Citi Field, the second-year home of the Mets.
"This is beyond the preliminary stage," said the source. "You don't bring in a big hitter like JLL unless you're serious. This tells me the Islanders and Mets have made progress in a partnership to take the hockey team to Queens. If Charles Wang and Nassau can't cut a deal, this will be a great option."
Efforts to obtain comment from Jones Lang LaSalle have been unsuccessful.
One month ago, Newsday reported on discussions between Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and Wang, the owner of the Islanders, about building an arena adjacent to Citi Field for his hockey team.
Since purchasing the Islanders in April of 2000, Wang has made scant progress with area politicians on the development of the Lighthouse Project, his proposed "transformation" of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and surrounding 90 acres. Town of Hempstead supervisor Kate Murray has promised Wang her consultants' counter-proposal to his vision this month. Hempstead's push-back is expected to be less than 50 percent of the scope Wang's real estate team not only designed more than six years ago, but was approved by the former leadership of Nassau County in 2006.
After years of meetings and zoning hearings, the response of Hempstead community leaders can best be summed up by Town spokesman Michael Deery. "Unlike the five metropolitan area franchises that opened magnificent facilities in the last year," Deery said recently, "Mr. Wang has tied the Coliseum's future to the construction of a mini-city along Hempstead Turnpike."
As a result of getting no results, Wang has taken down the official website of the Lighthouse Project. Most marketing materials and signage promoting the benefits of the proposed development have been taken out of the Coliseum and the Islanders' practice facility in Syosset, N.Y. Many Lighthouse staffers have been re-assigned to the Islanders or other Wang-owned businesses. Wang's dream of a mixed-use "iconic destination point" for himself and Long Island -- complete with an athletic complex (with three rinks), a Sport Technology center, hotel, office space and housing -- is all but dead.
Although the Islanders' owner has repeatedly declared that his wish is to keep the team in Nassau County, it appears he has turned a serious eye towards Queens. When he was eight years old, Wang's family moved from China to Flushing.
Despite the big step forward in working with power brokers Jones Lang La Salle, it remains uncertain if Jeff Wilpon and his father Fred, the Mets' chairman of the board, are interested in buying the Islanders from Wang. In Newsday last month, Jeff Wilpon said, "We haven't really discussed ownership. It has been more of, 'Can we get something synergistic with Citi Field and a hockey arena? What can happen here?'"
That's where Jones Lang LaSalle comes in.
In April, Jones Lang LaSalle was honored by the New York Landmarks Conservancy with awards for its work in the $16 million restoration of Manhattan's Beacon Theatre and the $550 million capital improvement program for increased security, traffic flow and restoration of the art deco lobby and other principal spaces of the Empire State Building.
As the company serves for the Madison Square Garden renovation, Jones Lang LaSalle could be selected officially as the manager of the Willets Point arena development. If so, it would be involved in creating timelines and financial controls and oversee the selection of the architect and construction team.
Unless Wang gets something close to the answers he needs from the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County, Jones Lang LaSalle and the Mets are ready to pave the way for the Islanders' relocation to Queens.