Merry Christmas? '11th-hour' lease may give Wang revenue flexibility

[Update: Nick of the invaluable Let There be Light(house) -- or should I say the invaluable Nick of Let There be Light(house)? -- has his interpretation, a must-read.]

This is not an answer to the Lighthouse Project question, or to the arena facility and lease(?) ills that plague Charles Wang and the Islanders. But it is an interesting development as one administration prepares to exit Nassau County office. Newsday reports (that'll be $5 please):

The Islanders and SMG, the Coliseum's manager, have agreed to a sublease that would hand control of the arena and its revenue to the team. Outgoing [Nassau] County Executive Thomas Suozzi approved it this week.

For outside hockey observers: Suozzi, a Democrat, is on his way out, but had made the Lighthouse Project a priority for the last year-plus of his term. He'll be replaced by Republican Edward Mangano. The Town of Hempstead supervisor you've heard so much about, Kate Murray, is also a Republican who has been less, um, "enthusiastic" about Charles Wang's Lighthouse plans. It's unclear how the administration change would alter this stalemate, but this is one final volley from Suozzi.

Meanwhile, the existing SMG lease, which lets SMG "keep the bulk of revenue from concession stands, parking, luxury boxes, and management rights to any facility built on the 70 acres around the Coliseum," has been a thorn in the franchise's side for nearly 30 years. Seriously: Half the management and ownership issues for the last three decades have been related to the limitations of -- and attempts to alter -- this lease.

Mangano naturally "slammed the sublease agreement Wednesday, calling it an '11th-hour move by a lame duck administration.'" But if it's a move Suozzi could have made (apparently) any time in his tenure, it would be not so much an 11th-hour move as a last resort after years of political football have put the franchise as close as it's ever been to the possibility of a move. (Note that the existing lease, and the new sub-lease, does not allow the team to move until its expiration in 2015, a year that is now within striking distance of the construction timeline for a new arena anywhere in Gary Bettman's continent.)

Does this move help alleviate that pressure and encourage the team to stay where it is? I've been through too many off-ice ups and downs as a fan to pretend to know what's around the corner. But this Suozzi move sure doesn't hurt. And if Wang and friends now have control of the arena revenues, you know my next wish: We get to buy more free agents now, right? ...Right? Come on, pretty please!

Resources: Newsday ($5!) | Point Blank | Forever1940 | All the background that's fit to print: Let There be Light(house)  [Update: Nick has his interpretation of the move. Must-read.]

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