This summer stands to be one full of franchise-defining issues for the Islanders. In a series of roundtables, SNY's Brian Erni and Andy Graziano will discuss these topics. Last week, the guys took on Garth Snow's fate and the possibility of a new team president. This week, it's the latest in talk of a new arena…
Well, Andy. The arena issue slogs on, but it look like there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. Bob McKenzie said last week that it's trending toward the Islanders moving to Elmont in a currently undeveloped area that surrounds Belmont Park. Newsday's Roberty Brodsky has been all over the issue, and he's reported Empire State Development will open up a request for proposal (RFP) for the site soon, with bids due early summer. What are your thoughts on the latest rumblings?
Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
Arena, schma-reener. I'll believe it when an RFP is granted to Jon Ledecky, followed by a silver shovel being thrust into dirt in ceremonious fashion. And even then, I won't believe it until the place actually, you know, gets built. Islanders fans have been given the run around with all this talk of where they will be playing in five years, and it's getting exhausting. I wonder if John Tavares is listening?
I'm sure his ears are perked up to the matter. Your skepticism notwithstanding, we are going to start getting some answers regarding the arena situation. The opt-out date is coming up quickly, and either the Islanders or Barclays Center will have to notify the other if they plan to dissolve the relationship. How do you see that playing out?
It's really hard to say. I'll say what I can't see, and that is the Islanders getting re-married to the Nassau Coliseum. Due to a lack of development vision, issues with the building still exist as before. Even NHL commission Gary Bettman was very dismissive of the idea publicly on national radio.
If I had to guess in terms of Barclays, I think the two come up with an amicable settlement that will allow the team to remain there until their new home, wherever that ends up being, is built. But the end result is they will not be calling Brooklyn home in five years.
I differ here a little bit. I agree the Isles and the Coliseum may not get remarried, but one last fling for old time's sake? Maybe. If the Isles and/or Barclays Center opts out, I'm not sure how much upside there is to the team playing there for the next three-to-four years. Could that mean a temporary return to Uniondale while an arena gets built at Belmont? I could certainly see that.
But no matter where they end up though, that opt out clause is getting exercised. I think we've hit the point of no return in that relationship.
Totally agree, Brian. It would take a reconciliation of epic proportions to make the Barclays-Islanders marriage work again. There was some mixed feelings at the start, and things escalated rather quickly from there. In terms of playing at the old-new-still old Coliseum again, I get why fans, particularly in western to central Long Island, want that to happen so badly. But it's a smaller building seating wise now than it was before, it still lacks luxury amenities, and there isn't any additional room offered on the still-too-narrow concourse. Plus you're taking public transportation back out of the picture for those fans not fortunate enough to be 15-to-30 minutes from Hempstead Turnpike.
Could it happen? Heck, with this organization and the way things have gone, I guess nothing would surprise me.
In my eyes, it just makes a lot of sense from a business perspective. Suppose I'm a season ticket holder based on Long Island, why am I renewing my Barclays Center seats when I know I can just wait when it's more convenient and re-up at Belmont? How many fans are they going to draw from Long Island if they know they'll just watch from home for a few seasons and then come out when they can take their cars? And from Barclays Center's perspective, why have a lame duck tenant take away valuable weekend dates that they can fill with other entertainment acts? This way, the Isles get a nostalgia run at the Coliseum, which will effectively act just as it did back in 2015, when the team played to almost a capacity crowd every night, until they would theoretically move to Elmont.
Speaking of fans in 2015, I think we all know why the building was packed most nights: fans knew it was the end.
Right, but that's what I'm getting at. For a three-to-four year novelty, they'd pack out the place. And then they could go play in their new building.
But let's use this opportunity to segway. Let's grant the premise that they are going to with the RFP and build at Belmont Park. How successful do you see it being? Will fans flock there? Does it finally cement the Islanders' place as a stable franchise with little-to-no long-term questions?
I do see Belmont Park being successful provided they can fix the issues with public transportation. It will more than certainly bring stability to an organization that is parched for it. No, make that dehydrated and in desperate need of it. Of course, the first two years after they opened that arena, it will be packed almost every night before things settle in, but overall, a success? I believe it will be, yes.
I agree. I know some people are skeptical that, if built, the arena will have enough entertainment offerings outside of hockey to make it worthwhile, but I think that's overblown. The fact is that the Islanders need a building of their own, one suitable for housing an NHL team in the 21st century. There aren't any existing options that fit that bill, and if Ledecky and Malkin do build the Belmont site, it's a massive win for this organization. Where it will go from here, no one knows for sure. But we will start getting our answers soon, and that is enough to excite any long-suffering Islanders fan who's desperate to put this arena talk behind them once and for all.