The end of an era is coming for a franchise with a long and proud history. The New York Islanders will be leaving Long Island and the Nassau Coliseum for the comfort of the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
On Wednesday afternoon, the New York Islanders held a press conference at the Barclays Center where it was confirmed by New York Islanders Owner Charles Wang that Islanders will be playing at the Barclays Center starting in 2015-16 season.
The New York Islanders will honor the lease they have with the Nassau Coliseum which expires at the end of the 2014-15 season. The new lease with the Barclays Center is for 25 years and is iron clad according to Wang.
According to Wang and Bettman, the deal was done last night and there was no reason to delay the announcement because of the current NHL lockout. Wang will remain the owner of the Islanders and the team will remain the New York Islanders when the move to Brooklyn.
In attendance for today’s press conference were New York Islanders Owner Charles B. Wang, Barclays Center Majority Owner and Developer Bruce Ratner, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Islanders General Manager Garth Snow, and Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark.
There had been much speculation about the Islanders moving to Brooklyn since the people of Nassau County voted against the plan to give the New York Islanders a new arena. “I am trying like hell to get the Islanders to make Barclays Center their new hockey home,” the Barclays Center CEO Bruce Ratner said in an interview with CBS back in August. “They will play a preseason game here against the Devils.”
The preseason game he was referencing was the October 2nd contest between the Devils and Islanders that was canceled due to current NHL lockout, which has wiped out the entire preseason and all regular season games up to and including November 1st.
Not only has Bruce Ratner gotten his wish, Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark has as well, who back in July spoke with Chris Botta of the Sports Business Journal on the possibility of a hockey team coming to Brooklyn:
“We are interested in bringing NHL hockey to Brooklyn. We feel very strongly about Brooklyn as a hockey market and know we can accommodate it from a building perspective.”
During this afternoon’s press conference Ratner expressed his gratitude to Wang for keeping the Islanders in New York by saying, “Charles got offers to take the Islanders out of the state of New York and very good offers, and Charles wouldn’t do that.”
Chris Botta also a well connected former New York Islanders exec pointed out in that same July article, that Islanders Owner Charles Wang has been trying to get the team a new arena in Nassau County for many years now and is adamant his team will not play another game there after the lease expires.
Charles Wang has maintained the team has not been making a profit for many years, and he has claimed the team has lost at least $20 million each season he has owned the Islanders. The Islanders averaged 13,191 fans per home game was only ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes, who are currently going through relocation rumors of their own.
The Barclays Center seats 18,000 when configured for basketball. It is unclear how many fans it would seat if configured for hockey, though multiple outlets have speculated that the estimate could be in the14, 500-seat range, which would make it the smallest arena in the NHL. This would be 500 seats less than Winnipeg’s MTS Centre.
One thing is for sure about the Barclays Center home, the arena will need to be renovated to accommodate hockey. Those close to the situation have stated that the sightlines for hockey are not that good. Gary Bettman says there is discussion to add more seat to Barclays. He expects capacity to be about 15,000 for hockey.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has maintained that when it comes to relocating franchises he would prefer to keep the franchise in their current location by going through all the possible options. Though Bettman thought the Islanders were not at the point where they needed to leave Long Island.
“There’s still time to effectuate a plan,” Bettman said recently. “It’s beyond question that they need a new arena, it’s beyond question they they’re not going to stay in Nassau Coliseum, so Charles will explore the alternatives. We hope the alternatives continue to be on Long Island so Islanders fans, who are many and loyal, can see their team.”
Bettman stated today on the Islander move to Brooklyn, “For us, for the Islanders…It’s a dream come true. The NHL is here with the New York Islanders and their fans, this franchise now have a bright future. We couldn’t be happier.”
Time is up for the Islanders in Nassau County and the move to Brooklyn is happening. The Islanders have called Veterans Memorial Center home since the franchise was founded in 1972. They have a long history of winning Stanley Cups in Long Island and want to have new success in Brooklyn.
All we know is that by the time 2015 rolls around the New York Islanders will be a contender when they move into their new home with hopes of bringing the Stanley Cup to Brooklyn one day.