Originally created 09/24/98

NHL to test coliseum safety



MINEOLA, N.Y. -- The NHL will hire engineers to conduct a safety inspection of the Nassau Coliseum, which the New York Islanders maintain is unsafe.

State Supreme Court Justice Burton Joseph ruled Wednesday that an engineering firm hired by the NHL should conduct a safety inspection of the 26-year-old Coliseum on Thursday.

"We're going to do everything possible to make sure that the team plays here," said Bill Daly, senior vice president of legal affairs for the NHL. "But there are safety concerns that have been raised and we have a duty to our club and to our fans to make sure that those safety concerns are addressed."

Daly said he believes the league can use powers in its constitution and bylaws to order the Islanders to play at the Coliseum if it is found to be safe following Thursday's inspection.

The Islanders earlier this month filed a federal lawsuit against SMG, formerly known as the Spectacor Management Group, the Philadelphia company that manages the Coliseum, saying the arena was unsafe.

The NHL team is seeking at least $10 million in damages and a release from its lease. The team also closed its Nassau County offices and moved to Manhattan.

Last week, Joseph issued a temporary restraining order barring the team from playing home games anywhere but at the Coliseum.

Herbert Tidlebaum, an attorney representing SMG, said there was nothing wrong with the facility.

"The Coliseum is safe and has always been safe," Tidlebaum said. "It's safe now and is going to be safe Friday night."

David Seldin, chief executive officer of New York Sports Venture which owns the team, brushed off the notion that the team was attempting to renegotiate its terms with Coliseum management.

"When legal maneuvering takes place hour after hour to stop the inspection or limit its scope, it makes you wonder what people are hiding. So let's find out what's being hidden," Seldin said.

Joseph has forbidden the team from playing games or selling tickets for games outside the Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders' first pre-season game against the New Jersey Devils is scheduled for Friday and could still take place.

The Islanders, hoping to build a new arena within the next three years on the site of the Coliseum, have played at the arena since 1972. Their lease runs through 2015.