Friday, November 20, 2009

A Dose of Reality

UNIONDALE, NY - AUGUST 04:  (L-R) Nassau Count...
I know I have been falling down on the job lately with posting, but with the project in the doldrums and other projects of mine requiring a lot of my attention, it's been difficult to find the time to write.  As I've said before, I've never been someone to write when I have nothing to say.  However, I want to talk briefly about a short piece that appeared in the business section of today's Newsday (I'd link to it, but their site is being moody, and most of you wouldn't be able to see it behind the ridiculous paywall).  Dee Karl from Hockeybuzz had a blistering take on the piece this morning, and while I do not like the piece, I want to take a different tactic.

The article, entitled "Slippery Surface for Islanders," paints a dire picture of a franchise that is losing value and about which nobody seems to care.  I will say first off that the writer did not present a full picture of the Islanders' financial situation.  The writer cites a 3%, or $5.6 million, drop in the team's value in 2009 as compared to 2008.  The team is now valued at $149 million, $46 million less than Charles Wang paid for the franchise in 2000 (in absolute numbers, not counting for inflation), and, as the paper made sure to mention, "third from the bottom" in the league.

The picture is not pretty, but there are pieces left out.  The author does not mention that 14 of the 30 National Hockey League franchises lost value in the past year, largely as a result of the bad economy.  In addition, the author also forgets to mention that, percentage-wise, 7 teams lost more value than the Islanders (including the Colorado Avalanche, whose value plummeted 11% after a disappointing season).

The author then hits all the tired buzzwords that fans of the Islanders are so used to hearing, including the attendance that's been as low as 6,000 on weekday games.  He also falsely accuses Mr. Wang of threatening to move the Islanders to Kansas City if the Lighthouse Project is not approved.  It's true that the owner has promised to "explore other options," but there is not an active threat to move the team to any specific location.

There is also a quote from John Meindl, president of Sportsbrandedmedia, a sports marketing company in Rockville Centre, that hits at the crux of the issue.  Mr. Meindl claimed Long Island lost its love affair with the Islanders shortly after the dynasty in the early 1980's, saying that, if the Islanders left, "there wouldn't be a lot of sleepless nights."

I had a visceral reaction to this at first, but, in all honesty, you can't blame Mr. Meindl for drawing such a conclusion.  Let's take a look at a few specific issues:
  • 2 weeks ago, an election that will largely determine the fate of the Lighthouse Project was held.  Turnout was pathetically low, the Lighthouse was not a galvanizing issue, and project supporters did not play a key role in any races.
  • The New York Islanders are showing signs of life, yet fans still do not go to games.
  • Time and again, including the example of the Hartford Whalers, teams have moved, and high-level politicians have not paid for it with their jobs.
  • Now that the project has hit a rough patch, people are rightly clamoring for another event, such as a rally.  To be honest, I don't want to schedule any kind of a rally unless there's an assurance people will come.
This is the key question: How can we expect to be given respect if we don't act in a way that demands it?

Bottom Line

If we want to be taken seriously, and if we want the Lighthouse Project to happen, we can't sit back and wait for people to take us seriously.  We got this process moving along, and we made the Town of Hempstead take notice, because we organized and positively advocated for the project.  We can't sit back now when there is still so much left to do.

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  1. It's not good Nick...
    And the Catch-22 about it?

    If the Isles continue to make a sustainable run for a playoff, it makes them more attractive to "other options".

    Reminds me, in a way, of when Quebec moved to Colorado in the 90's (96? too lazy to look it up).
    A buddy of mine owned a bar across the street from the now called Pepsi Center in Den. He knew absolutely nothing about hockey. But he was on some local ad hoc committee that was trying to bring the NHL to Denver.
    Asked me what I knew about the Nordiques..
    I said..."Holy shit, you would get what will be a Stanley Cup champ very soon, they are LOADED with talent". His eyes lit up....with dollar signs for his bar.

    The history.

  2. The difference with this one is that if the Islanders move, it is going to result in what we assume will be the administration of Ed Mangano having a big, big problem. He's going to be the owner of an arena now losing even more money, with no realistic hope of that ever changing; a big piece of land in the center of his county that would need to be developed; and a realization that if you just stuck houses there, you really would be putting a tremendous strain on the Uniondale schools. He'd also have to start the whole development process over. The other thing is that there really aren't that many great options for the Islanders. How many hockey-mad cities are there out there with a top-notch arena? I can think of one: Quebec, which is going to build a new arena. That's going to be a very real player in luring some team, whether it's the Islanders, Thrashers, Panthers, etc.

  3. Nick,

    Unfortunately voter apathy is nothing new and this applies to issues way more important than hockey. Furthermore, it's hard to blame lighthouse supporters for the poor election turnout when Mangano was for the project and I thought he gave you a very good interview that gave some hope that a change of players may help everyone save face.

    As for Kate Murry, Kristen McCelroy has no experiance running anything and did not tap into the lighthouse issue until it was too late and Kate Murray took the wind out of her sales by scheduling hearings and acting like she wanted the project to get done.

    I do agree it is time for Islander fans to show up and support the team. They are playing well and tickets can be gotten cheap. We need to start filling the building.


  4. Scott - excellent point, and I don't mean to blame Lighthouse supporters for low turnout. What I'm saying is that the Lighthouse wasn't a galvanizing issue for voters, and the Town of Hempstead's reps were all re-elected. Therefore, they have less of a reason to fear voter reprisal, since it wasn't what they feared. Your analysis is 100% correct; I'm just saying the levels of enthusiasm we saw over the summer didn't manifest in voters on election day.

    505 - I've also been worried about that. I'm reserving judgment on a roadmap for the Islanders until the new year...I would hate for the wheels to fall off as the team is on the verge of something.

    tigmet - fair enough. Mangano himself admitted that nobody he's spoken to wants the Islanders to leave or for the Coliseum property to remain the asphalt jungle it currently is. It would be a problem for his administration if the project isn't put through, but the Lighthouse hasn't been a decisive issue yet. Greg Peterson couldn't unseat Suozzi in 2005 by opposing it, and Suozzi couldn't keep his seat this year despite supporting it. What would change, in your view, for a project failure to cost Mangano his job?

  5. I certainly agree that the lighthouse situation in 2009 was not a galvanizing issue but actually rejecting the lighthouse when you can't blame Suozzi and losing the Islanders, jobs and turning the area into an asphalt jungle may be a galvanizing issue down the road.

    Plus if Mangano wins and they get something done the Republicans can take all the credit. If they do not get anything done, their victory will be short lived since taxes on Long Island will still be terrible and governing is much harder than criticizing government.


  6. That's definitely the optimistic view. A friend saw Mangano earlier this week and referenced our interview. Mangano re-iterated that "we will get something done" with the Lighthouse.

    More coming, hopefully today since my whole weekend is shot.

  7. "Get something done" ? But What ?

    well anyways I will reiterate that losing the Isles will not lower taxes obviously, but actually drive them up significantly. How much are the Isles putting in Nassau's/Hempstead's coffers? I'm sure it's a pretty penny. If that goes away, those taxes will be passed to the taxpayer. In my opinion.

  8. Lighthouse Project studies say the Islanders are a $250 million economic engine for the region. Even if that's not the exact number, the impact is pretty significant when you consider the scale of the County.

  9. The fact of the matter is if this team continues to play well and exceed expectations, possibly making a run for the playoffs, more and more fans will start showing up...Its been a while since fans were excited enough to go to games...Its still early in the season and if they keep winning, its just a matter of time before they get the attention of the masses...

  10. I still think that the LH was not a galvanizing issue because both democrats and republicans were running campaigns that professed to be pro-lighthouse. That is what made it a total non-issue. I mean, who should you have voted for in your local election if you were pro-lighthouse??? There was nothing produced by the LH group or any other parties on that subject- if there had been, and it was done in time for the campaign pushes, I think that it could have ben made into far more of a factor than it was.