The Islanders will be keeping the “New York” in their name after all.
Owner Charles Wang announced today during a press conference that the Isles will be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn following the expiration of their lease with Nassau Coliseum in 2015. The lease with the Barclays is for an iron-clad 25 years (meaning there is no opt-out clause), extending through the 2039-2040 NHL season.
This isn’t exactly shocking, considering there had been implications with the scheduled preseason game at the Barclays between the Isles and Devils in early October (which was canceled due to the lockout). Still, this is great news in terms of keeping the Islanders in the state. As we all know, there had been whispers of the team potentially moving to places like Kansas City, Quebec City or Hamilton, though NHL commissioner Gary Bettman struck them down.
The Barclays Center, believe it or not, is very accessible, with LIRR service right into Brooklyn (whereas there had been little public transportation to Nassau Coliseum). Some Isles fans aren’t too happy about the idea of having to drive longer or take trains, but it could be worse. There will also be a great chance for renewal of the heated rivalry between the Isles and Rangers, with such close proximity between Manhattan and Brooklyn. (Oh, and the Isles actually ARE keeping “New York” and the current logo in their repertoire, no worries.)
The size of the building remains a concern to some; the Isles are a small-market team and potentially would have an easier time selling out a 14,000-seat building like the Barclays, rather than an 18-20,000-seater. But will ticket prices be raised in order to make maximum profits, on the basis of that it IS a small building? Not sure how that might work out.
Also… while this is a great thing for the Isles and for Brooklyn, there is a loser in this deal. Nassau County will have its hockey team for the next two years, but after they leave, they’ll be faced with the daunting prospect of an empty venue. The Isles’ departure leaves a sizable hole in the county’s economy, not just by bringing people to Nassau Coliseum, but by also bringing them to the many small businesses around the arena. Now, those businesses will probably suffer.
All of the taxpayers who voted “No” in the referendum on the arena last August will likely also see their pockets hit much harder in the years after the Isles have left than if they had gotten an arena built — at least, that’s what I’m gathering from the numerous tweets and snippets of news and analysis. And as BD Gallof (again) points out, one of the first cuts to budgets in the face of economic strife? Education.
Basically, the Town of Hempstead screwed this one up. And now the county’s going to pay for it in the very near future.
Lastly, this new deal with the Barclays may have a positive effect on the on-ice product. It’s not a secret that free agents shy away from the idea of playing in the “Nassau Mausoleum,” as one player lovingly coined it, but a brand-new arena, in a borough of New York City? If I were an NHLer, I’d dig it. Of course, the organizational aspects of the team could still drive some away (and Wang banished any ideas that he might be selling with the announcement today), but… time will figure that one out.
My opinion? I lived in Brooklyn for 19 of my 21 years, and I still consider it my home even from the other side of the state. I’m thrilled to see that the Islanders, the team I’ve followed since I first fell in love with hockey, are going to be making it theirs in the next couple of years. While I’m concerned by the economic future of Nassau County, I can’t help but be happy about the fact that they’re staying in New York.
Welcome to Brooklyn, boys!