Wang moving Islanders to Brooklyn's Barclays Center in 2015
by Adam Wodon/NYHJ Writer
The New York Islanders announced today they have reached an agreement to play at Brooklyn's Barclays Center starting in 2015-16, assuring the team will stay in New York. The arena was originally developed as the new home for the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.
"Islanders fans are assured they'll have the opportunity to watch our young core compete for years to come," team gneral manager Garth Snow said.
The Islanders' lease with Nassau Coliseum expires in 2015, and team owner Charles Wang has long been frustrated in his attempts to secure a new facility in Nassau County for the team. Despite being willing to spend his own money to fund it, Wang's Lighthouse Project, which would have developed the entire area, was rejected by local politicians.
Later, a referendum that would've just funded a new arena from some taxpayer funds, was voted down in a special election. Meanwhile, the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County politicians sparred with no end in sight.
"We have tried very hard to keep the Islanders in their original home," Wang said. "I want to specifically thank Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his team for their help trying to find a solution to keep the Islanders there. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do that."
The new lease is for 25 years, running through 2040-41. In the process, the team announced that its name, logo and colors would remain the same.
"I have said consistently we will honor our lease (at the Coliseum)," Wang said. "Obviously anything can happen, but we are committed to being there through 2015."
When former Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner was finally given approval to develop the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn, as a new home for the Nets and housing units, plans were made without hockey in mind. Despite seating 18,000 for basketball, it would only hold 14,500 for hockey because of the horseshoe design and the fact that the sight lines were perfected for basketball.
But, with the Islanders struggling to come up with another option, and the Barclays looking to fill more dates, a marriage between the two became more and more attractive. There had been meetings over the last year, and hints that things were moving in this direction. The Islanders also scheduled an exhibition game for Barclays Center for Oct. 2, a game that was canceled because of the current NHL Lockout.
"There comes a point where you have to make a decision because there's not enough time to build a new arena," Wang said.
"Bruce and I met six-seven years ago. We said, 'Wouldn't it be nice?' He was trying to get approval to build an arena. We were in the process of Lighthouse One, Lighthouse Two, Lighthouse Three, Lighthouse Four. ... We were in the process of dreaming about it, and he did it. This process specifically, it was probably seven months in earnest that we've been talking about it."
Said Ratner, "It's finally happening. I couldn't think of a better partner. ... Charles Wang is the real hero today. He has kept his team in New York State."
Meanwhile, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the arena would be expanded to seat over 15,000 for hockey by 2015.
"Winnipeg is doing quite well (with a smaller capacity), the Coliseum (capacity) is 16,200," Bettman said. "A thousand seats, we don't think makes a material difference.
"Bruce Ratner had an incredible vision to build a state of the art arena in Brooklyn and he accomplished that in ways nobody could have imagined. Charles Wang is incredibly supportive, passionate and committed to the Islanders and Islanders fans. He has spent the better part of a decade and tens of millions of dollars in pursuit of a new arena. So to finally be in a position to say to New York Islanders fans, 'You don't have to worry about the future of your club, the
future is stable, you'll be able to get to it easily.'"
Nassau Coliseum has been the Islanders' only home, completed in 1972, the year the team came into the NHL. The Coliseum was also home to the Nets when they were in the American Basketball Association, and when the Nets joined the NBA in 1976-77. But the Nets moved to the Meadowlands the following season.