In the continuing saga of the New York Islanders and where they will play in the future, a new report from Bloomberg has a “supergroup” of sports executives ready to invest in a new arena project for the team. The group includes James Dolan owner of the New York Rangers, Tim Leiweke former CEO of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, and the Wilpon family, owners of the New York Mets.
The Islanders are currently playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the ice has been a huge problem all season and sight lines for fans are causing issues in attendance. The arena wasn’t meant for hockey, but took in the team when they left Nassau Coliseum in 2015. The new plan has the team building just outside of Queens at the Belmont site discussed earlier this season. The team’s current lease with Barclay’s could be terminated to allow the Islanders to move out of the arena as soon as the 2018-19 season, though obviously another building would need to be in place for it.
The team which was struggling for much of the first half of the season has turned it around and is vying for a playoff spot, but still has the second-worst attendance in the league at just 13,003. The capacity of Barclays is 15,795 when designed for hockey. The Rangers, meanwhile are averaging over 18,000 a night and have a stable home in the recently renovated Madison Square Garden. The NHL does allow current owners to have investments in other team’s arenas, though Dolan’s interest would be through the Oak View Group, an equity firm headed by Leiweke.
The Belmont site is not just open to anyone, as NYCFC of Major League Soccer also would like to build a soccer-specific stadium on it. They were mentioned in the original piece as potential bidders, though Bloomberg reports that “those negotiations aren’t active”. For now the Islanders will concentrate on making the playoffs and trying to fill the Barclays Center every night. With John Tavares up for an extension July 1st, a future home for the organization would definitely be a nice selling point.