NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Islanders plan to formally propose a new arena be built at Belmont Park, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday, according to a report.
Newsday reported Friday that Bettman told members of The Associated Press Sports Editors that the Islanders will submit an RFP (request for proposal) to the state. He, however, did not rule out Willets Point as a possible location for the new venue.
“I believe that everyone thinks there is a terrific opportunity there (at Belmont), if not at Willets Point, to create a more hockey-friendly environment for the Islanders, which is something (Islanders co-owner) Scott (Malkin) is committed to do,” Bettman said, according to Newsday.
Bettman reiterated what he said on WFAN last week that a return to Nassau Coliseum is “not a long-term option.”
A spokeswoman for Empire State Development told Newsday the agency is “working to finalize” RFPs to develop Belmont Park. The Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates both Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum, declined to comment to the newspaper.
After spending their first 43 years of existence at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders moved to Barclays Center in Brooklyn before the 2015-16 season. But Barclays officials have reportedly concluded the venue would be better off financially without the Islanders, leaving the NHL franchise scrambling to find a new home.
The Islanders and Barclays have an unusual agreement in which the arena pays the team $53.5 million a year in exchange for business operations, which includes tickets and suite sales.
In Brooklyn, the Isles have struggled to attract new fans while their existing supporters have complained about obstructed-view seats and the loss of some traditions from the team’s decades on Long Island. Some players also have complained about the quality of the ice.
With a seating capacity of 15,700 for hockey, Barclays Center is considered small by NHL standards.
Former majority owner Charles Wang moved the team after voters in 2011 rejected a referendum that would have used taxpayer money to build a new arena on Long Island. Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky purchased the franchise for $485 million in 2014 and took control July 1, 2016.
Newsday reported that the Islanders have been talking to the Mets about partnering on the new development.
This past season, the Islanders averaged 13,101 fans per game, which ranked 28th out of 30 NHL teams. That’s down from 13,626 last season and down from 15,334 in 2014-15 — their last year at Nassau Coliseum.
Some Long Island officials and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment reportedly would like to bring the Islanders back to their original home, but that does not appear to be in the cards, at least not for the long-term
The Coliseum reopened earlier this month after undergoing a $165 million renovation, but the seating capacity in the area was reduced by about 3,000, down to 13,000, and the venue only has 11 corporate suites.