Nine years ago, businessman Charles Wang thought he would do Long Island a solid and buy their Islanders so the team could stay in Nassau County. Now? He kinda wishes he could have a do-over.
Wang—one of the richest residents of the island—paid about $170 million for the team back in 2000, but since then has spent an additional $208 million out of his own pocket to keep the team afloat. That's about $23 million a season down the drain. He was doing the entire area a favor by bailing the team out back then, but now Wang says, "If I had the chance, I wouldn't do it again." Ya think?
Still, Wang says he is proud that he was able to save the Islanders from leaving Long Island nine years ago, and that it was important to him that the Island's only professional sports team got a legitimate shot to succeed. Before Wang's purchase of the team, many area public figures asked him to step in - an action that the financial documents show has cost him close to $300 million. "I knew going in," Wang said, "that I was going to lose money."
National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner William Daly said the league is aware of Wang's losses on the team. "His numbers are real," Daly said. "Yes, we're aware the Islanders lose money, a significant amount of money. And it goes back to the team's need for a new arena."
Ahh, yes. It's always the arena. Nassau Coliseum is a bit of a dump—and the smallest in the NHL—and the team's lease does not give them any money from concessions or parking, so they are getting kind of screwed there. And even though the town won't build a new arena, Wang offered to build one himself, but says bureaucratic wrangling is holding up the project.
The losses may also have something to do with the fact that the Islanders are a terrible, terrible franchise. They were easily dead last in points and attendance this year and haven't won a Stanley Cup playoff series since 1993. What is he spending that $23 million a year on? Zamboni repairs?