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Islanders Sue To Break Lease

September 10, 1998 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ The New York Islanders want to break their lease at the Nassau Coliseum, claiming that the arena managers have a ``disregard for public safety.″

The Islanders announced Wednesday they have filed suit against SMG, manager of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, claiming ``constructive eviction″ because of various safety problems.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District, sought a declaration that the Islanders have no further obligation under the Coliseum lease by virtue of having been evicted due to SMG’s failure to maintain the arena in a safe condition.

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In addition, the Islanders sought punitive damages of at least $10 million because of ``SMG’s brazen conduct knowingly jeopardizing the public safety and breach of its fiduciary duties.″

SMG officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

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

The building has ``fallen into a state of disrepair so extreme ... that the condition of the Coliseum is not simply inadequate, it is unsafe, creating a risk of serious personal injury to the occupants of the facility,″ the Islanders said in their complaint.

Among the Islanders’ concerns was the hoist system that held the center-ice scoreboard, which they said ``presented a safety risk.″ The Islanders said that SMG failed to respond to their requests that it replace the hoist system.

``SMG knows that the hoist was below industry standards,″ said Gary Lewi, a spokesman for New York Sports Ventures, the corporate parent company of the Islanders.

Among other areas specified as unsafe by the Islanders: the dasherboards that ring the rink, which they described as too rigid; the height of the glass around the rink; the condition of the Coliseum’s passenger elevators; the ``deteriorating condition″ of the arena roof, the Coliseum’s seats and the ``disrepair of the Coliseum’s bathrooms.″

``When it became obvious that the fans needs weren’t being met (last season), the Islanders brought in portable bathrooms,″ Lewi said.

Lewi said the Islanders were ``aggressively looking at options″ for a new arena to play in this season.