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As Nassau Coliseum reopens for NHL hockey, thanks to Cuomo contribution, a lingering question about who pays for key Belmont upgrade

The Nassau Coliseum has a re-do for major league hockey, as Newsday explains here and here:
The Islanders on Saturday will play Columbus in the first of 21 games this season at the Coliseum, and the first of at least 60 in the next three years before their new arena at Belmont Park is ready. New York State contributed $6 million to make sure the Coliseum arena fits NHL specifications, while the Islanders chipped in $4 million.
Additions include new locker rooms, and investments in dehumidification and ice plant redundancy — the NHL requires teams to have both the ability to maintain the ice, and a backup in case the primary ice plant goes down. There are also updates to the arena’s broadcast capabilities, with two new cameras pointed at center ice.
Yes, that's $6 million of public funds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided to put in to help both the Islanders and BSE Global, which operates the Coliseum and the Barclays Center, and has been eager--maybe desperate--to move games out of Brooklyn, where the arena loses money, to Nassau, which lacks an anchor tenant.

So it's possible that the Islanders, in the next two seasons (at least), won't split games between Brooklyn and Nassau, but will move back to their old stomping grounds full time. Stay tuned.

Nassau, Belmont, and public costs

The player and former players sound happy, and the building offers great sight lines and a tight feel, plus a convenient location for many fans, at least those arriving by vehicle. From NHL.com, "The Coliseum has experienced a $165 million renovation and holds 13,900 fans for hockey, down from 16,234 prior to the move."

Yes, that's small, though the Islanders have been drawing a dismal 10,447 in Brooklyn so far, last in the league. And yes, capacity in Nassau is well below the 15,321 capacity in Winnipeg, the smallest NHL arena. 

So, what exactly will that new Belmont arena be offering? The Islanders for years drew below the current capacity in Nassau, for four seasons between 2009-2013. A new larger arena could handle big games, as well as big concerts, plus, of course, offer new luxury suites.

But even the Barclays Center doesn't sell through full capacity for most events. It seems to me that a key part of making Belmont attractive is mass transit access, via the Long Island Rail Road, currently unavailable at the Coliseum.

The price tag and the payee(s) for that access remain unclear, but one Belmont opponent, in a Daily News op-ed, pegged it as a $300 million state giveaway. 

Sure, hockey, concerts, and family shows can be entertaining distractions. But the key thing to watch as the arena drama plays out is who shoulders the cost burden.

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