Islanders, NYCFC Have Been Waiting Since September For An Answer That Could Define Each Team's Future

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The wait for a new arena may soon be over for the New York Islanders or New York City Football Club.

According to Newsday, Empire State Development is expected to announce this week its decision on the teams’ proposals to develop the land at Belmont Park. A news conference has been scheduled for Wednesday and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to be in attendance, the newspaper reported.

The Islanders want to turn that property into a world-class sports and entertainment facility, including an 18,000-seat arena for the professional hockey team.

NYCFC, which is partly owned by the New York Yankees, hopes to transform part of the property north of Hempstead Turnpike into a 26,000-seat open-air stadium for its professional soccer team.

The Islanders’ proposal would also include retail, hotels and community centers, while NYCFC is also proposing retail, entertainment and community space. Both teams’ plans include the reopening of the nearby Long Island Rail Road Belmont Park station stop.

The decision will more immediately impact the Islanders, who have until January to opt out of their 25-year lease at Barclays Center, a marriage that has not worked out too well since the team relocated from Nassau County to Brooklyn back in 2015. Team co-owner Jon Ledecky has said on more than one occasion the Isles do not have a Plan B beyond Belmont.

Ledecky said recently the Islanders will play at Barclays Center during the 2018-19 season, regardless of how their quest for Belmont Park plays out. If the Isles win the bid, they may have to find a temporary place to play until the arena is built, although NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told WFAN last month that he expects that the Isles could work out an arrangement to remain at Barclays in the meantime.

NYCFC has played nearly all of its home games at Yankee Stadium, and will continue to do so until it finds a new home.

The Isles’ development partners are Sterling Project Development, which is run by the Mets’ Wilpon family, and Oak View Group, which is partially funded by Madison Square Garden. NYCFC’s partner is The Related Companies, which is run by billionaire real estate mogul and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

If the news comes down in the Islanders’ favor, it’s quite possible their fans will have more than one huge thing to celebrate this holiday season. It is widely believed that superstar center and captain John Tavares has held off signing a contract extension with the Islanders due to the uncertainty of the arena situation. He can become an unrestricted free agent after this season but has said he would prefer to stay with the Islanders, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009.

Various reports have suggested NYCFC, which is entering its fourth season of operations in Major League Soccer, entered a bid for Belmont as a matter of due diligence. The team would actually prefer to build a stadium within New York City limits, something its fans have clamored for since the club was founded.

Earlier this month, both the Islanders and NYCFC presented their plans to the public at Elmont High School, and various lawmakers have weighed in what development of the land will mean for neighboring residents.

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