Wednesday: The official documents have been released, the Islanders are set at Belmont Park. The plans include the building of an 18,000-seat arena, 435,000 square feet for a retail shopping center, a hotel, offices and parking. You can see a map of the proposed build at the end of the documentation.
Tuesday: Though the official announcement won’t come until tomorrow, multiple sources including Jim Baumbach of Newsday are reporting that the New York Islanders have won the bidding on the Belmont Park development project. That would allow the Islanders to build a new arena and solidify the future of their franchise.
This is huge news for Islanders fans hoping not only for the long-term stability of the franchise, but also the chance to re-sign John Tavares this summer. The pending unrestricted free agent has made it clear in the past that he was waiting to know where the arena plans were before signing, and with an agreement to build a brand new arena, shopping area and hotel in Belmont Park it’s clear there is a path in place for the Islanders long-term health. Though there is no guarantee this makes Tavares stick around—after all, he is looking at potentially the biggest salary in the league should he hit free agency and start a bidding war—it certainly helps the Islanders’ case.
More than that, it brings the Islanders back out of Brooklyn and the Barclays Center, an arena that has caused the team nothing but problems since moving there in 2015. The Islanders have an opt-out opportunity in January to start the process of getting out of their current lease, though it’s not clear exactly when the new building would be operational.
For a team that is keeping pace in the difficult Metropolitan Division, and looks to have several of the top free agents to sign, news like this can’t come at a better time. There was worry that a decision wouldn’t come early enough for the Islanders to have time to decide what to do ahead of the trade deadline, but they should now be able to know the exact direction of the franchise before buying or selling. With Tavares, Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and Jaroslav Halak all up for new contracts or free agency, the team is one of the more interesting to watch over the coming months.