Saga Finally Ends As Islanders Announce Move To Barclays Center
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Goodbye, Nassau.
The Islanders will become the borough’s second professional sports franchise when they move to Barclays Center in 2015.
The team announced its upcoming relocation at a 1 p.m. press conference on Wednesday.
“This has been a very long journey for the Islanders family,” owner Charles Wang said. “We have come to a conclusion and come up with a solution that I think really benefits the Islander fans. We’re staying in New York. We’re very happy with the decision we’ve made.”
The Islanders will begin play in Brooklyn after their lease with the Nassau Coliseum expires. Wang said the team has reached a 25-year agreement with Barclays Center.
Wang told WFAN’s Mike Francesa that the team will keep its name, logo and colors. His goal — what else would it be? — is to win the Stanley Cup.
“We were very fortunate to be able to move to Brooklyn,” he said.
The owner wouldn’t rule out an early exit from Nassau, but said the franchise plans to honor its current lease. Wang said he would’ve been forced to move the team out of the area had a viable alternative not become available.
“It just couldn’t be done there,” Wang told Francesa. “We had to make a decision.”
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb was at the announcement at Barclays Center
Wang had received his fair share of blame and criticism for the Islanders’ arena problems, but on Wednesday he was viewed by many as a savior.
“Charles Wang is the real hero today,” said Barclays Center majority owner and developer Bruce Ratner. “He has kept this team in New York State.”
“I am buzzing right now. I grew up in Baldwin 10 minutes from the Coliseum and my mom was an Islander fan. I’m an Islander fan and this is the right move. They had to move,” a fan in Brooklyn told WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s good for the economy of Brooklyn. It’s created jobs. I think the value of the property of homes have gone up. I think it’s a great financial move for Brooklyn,” Gregory Wortham told CBS 2’s Otis Livingston.
Some fans said the move to Brooklyn is preferable to the team being shipped to Seattle, which had been discussed as a possibility. It was believed Kansas City and Quebec also had interest.
On Long Island, a Nassau official expressed disappointment with the Islanders’ decision to move.
“We worked real hard in the Town of Hempstead and the county did as well, to keep the Islanders here. After all, they are part of our identity,” Town Supervisor Kate Murray told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “But the bottom line is at the end of the day, the voters rejected a referendum calling for public financing of the redevelopment of the Coliseum and the taxpayers spoke. And so Mr. Wang made his decision and we certainly wish him the very, very best.”
WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall with reaction from Hempstead
Murray, however, did not get into much discussion of the failed Lighthouse Project, a Wang-backed and privately financed $3 billion proposal that would have included housing development and retail in Hempstead, that she never warmed up to. As for what will come of the Nassau “hub,” the 77 acres where the coliseum currently sits, she said she does not know what economic impact the team’s move will have on Hempstead or Nassau in general.
“Going forward, it’s a great piece of property and we’re excited about future redevelopment of that piece of property. I firmly believe that the property is very, very valuable,” Murray told Hall.
Isles fans generally applauded the move, but some had mixed emotions.
“I think the Islanders have been a big part of Long Island culture over here for many years but I think over the past several years now, it’s kind of been a dying culture in a sense where the team hasn’t played very good and obviously the Coliseum’s been run down,” Nassau resident Rob Verderosa told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.
Over the past five years, the Islanders have been last or next to last in NHL attendance, Haskell reported.
“At this point, I don’t know how many people will miss it because there really hasn’t been anything over the past several years, so it is what it is at this point,” Verderosa added.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell with reaction from Long Island
Hockey fans at a restaurant across the street from Nassau Coliseum shared their disappointment with 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria.
“The Islanders have a rich tradition here in hockey and it’s pretty sad not seeing anything sell out. I think that building a new arena or something like that here on Long Island would attract the fans,” a disappointed fan told D’Auria.
But after the Lighthouse Project was rejected, the $400 million referendum engineered in part by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano to use taxpayer money to help build a new stadium failed, a vote that one fan said is coming back to haunt the county.
“It’s a reflection on us and I don’t blame them at all for choosing the bigger and brighter arena over in Brooklyn,” the fan told D’Auria.
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria with reaction from Hempstead
Another fan said he’s worried what will become of the aging coliseum.
“Who knows what they’re going to do with that. They don’t really have that many concerts going on there now and now that there’s not the Islanders playing there, nothing there. Nothing to use it for. Wasted space,” the Nassau resident told 1010 WINS’ D’Auria.
The people who may suffer the most in Nassau are the small business owners near the coliseum. They told CBS 2’s Livingston that county government’s own dysfunction is to blame.
“That’s one of the reasons why I rented this space in the first place, because I understood they were going to a big development here and it never panned out,” Greg Verdino said.
“Republicans and Democrats don’t seem to get along here in the county, so they butt heads. So when one person says ‘yes,’ the other says ‘no,’ and we’re like children of divorced parents, right in the middle,” Frank Borrelli added.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was thrilled to welcome the Islanders during the official announcement of the move.
“Just like I have sweet memories of rooting for the Dodgers as a kid, the children of Brooklyn today and tomorrow will have those same sweet memories as they root for the Islanders to bring the Stanley Cup home to New York in Brooklyn,” he said.
“This is great for Brooklyn. It’s a dream come true,” Markowitz told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks.
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports from Barclays Center
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Islanders general manager Garth Snow and Nets CEO Brett Yormark were also in attendance.
“I have two MetroCards here,” Bloomberg said. “These are to welcome the Islanders to Brooklyn. One each for Charles Wang, the team’s owner, and one for Garth Snow, the team’s general manager. And they will be able to use these to get to the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan for the Islanders’ Stanley Cup championship parade.”
The arena will hold 14,500 seats for hockey, which would make it the smallest capacity arena in the NHL, but that number could be higher with some adjustments, officials have said. Current season-ticket holders will get first crack at season tickets at Barclays Center, the Islanders said in a statement.
The NBA’s Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn earlier this year.
“Not long ago, I think it’s fair to say, the idea of a big league sports team coming to Brooklyn was considered to be more than a pipe dream,” Bloomberg said. “Brooklyn is big time and now we have the big league sports to prove it.”
Markowitz could barely contain his enthusiasm.
“I was happy getting one national sports team in Brooklyn; I never dreamed of two,” Markowitz said.
Officials in Nassau County have struggled for years to come up with a plan to either renovate or build a new arena to replace the Nassau Coliseum, which opened in 1972.
Wang had long threatened to move the team from the site when the team’s lease expires. He has complained that the dilapidated building is unsuited for a professional sports franchise.
Mangano said he believes that his county has what it takes to recover from the loss of the Islanders.
“The Nassau County Hub is home to the most promising job-creating opportunities in the nation,” Mangano said. “It is my intention to ensure that the taxpayers of Nassau County benefit from the economic redevelopment of 77 acres of land that sit within the most dynamic county in the nation.”
Are you excited about the move, or are you upset the Isles couldn’t work it out with Nassau? Let us know in the comments below!
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)