By Peter Schwartz
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As the Islanders finish out a 43-year run at the Nassau Coliseum, their future home is getting ready to welcome them with open arms for the 2015-16 campaign.
Once this season is done — and the Islanders are hoping that will be sometime in June — they will move less than 30 miles west to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“We’re excited about them coming,” said Fred Mangione, chief operating officer of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets.
While the majority of the fan base is still scratching their heads as to why something couldn’t be done to keep the team on Long Island, it appears as if much of Islanders Country will be in Brooklyn to cheer on the orange and blue.
Existing Islanders subscribers had the first opportunity to buy season tickets for the historic first campaign in Brooklyn. There was a pretty good response to the premium seats. But when the general season tickets were made available, the passion of the Islanders fan base came through loud and clear.
“When those went on sale, it really went through the roof,” Mangione said. “We’ve been pretty happy about the response. They’re a passionate group out there. The support from Nassau has been fantastic.”
Next Tuesday, Feb. 10, season tickets for the Islanders’ inaugural season at Barclays Center will go on sale to the general public at 8:30 a.m., with Brooklyn residents receiving exclusive early access on Monday from noon to 6 p.m.
As the team continues to build the season-ticket base for its arrival in Brooklyn, the process of making Barclays Center “hockey ready” will begin shortly. During the first week of March, construction of the Islanders’ locker room will begin and will be ready for training camp.
Replica Stanley Cup banners are already hanging in the rafters at Barclays Center. Come September they will be replaced by the originals as well as the many other championship banners and retired numbers that will come over from the Coliseum.
It’s all part of the marketing slogan, “Tradition Has A New Home.”
“We are taking everything that they have on Long Island, including the traditions, the banners and the alumni and we are bringing it to the best building in the country,” Mangione said.
It’s a building, however, that has a couple of quirks when it comes to hockey.
There are 15,795 seats for hockey, which is a little less than Nassau Coliseum’s capacity of 16,170. There are also the 400 or so well-documented “obstructed view” seats that will only be available for sold-out games and would boost attendance to over 16,000.
Along with the scoreboard that hangs off-center, the arena has an unusual setup. But the building will provide an intimacy and a top-notch experience for hockey fans.
“It’s just a situation with the building because when it was made it was strictly for basketball,” Mangione said. “So for some of the things we’re off a little bit for hockey, we’ll make that up in other areas to make it the best experience it can be.”
One of those experiences will be the spectacular view from right up on the glass, including a special section of around 100 seats that will be placed behind the west end zone. Unlike what is commonplace around the NHL, Barclays Center’s glass seats are elevated with the boards starting just below a fan’s knees.
“We are deeming these the best seats in hockey,” Mangione said.
As far as getting to the games, Islanders fans will have a couple of options. There are 11 subway lines that take you to the foot of the building and the Long Island Rail Road has a stop right across the street at Atlantic Terminal.
Barclays Center is working with the LIRR to make things easier those coming from Nassau and Suffolk. For the preseason contest this past September, there were some direct trains added from Long Island to Brooklyn — and that is the objective come next season.
“Absolutely,” Mangione said. “We’ve had a lot of different meetings. We’ve also gone out to Long Island a bunch of times where we’ve met with season-ticket holders to hear their concerns.”
One of those concerns is driving to Brooklyn, but that is a viable option as there are a number of lots in the area. Season-ticket holders and prospective customers are being sent information that shows them where they can park when coming to a game.
To make things convenient, Barclays Center officials have been listening to feedback from Islanders fans about start times in Brooklyn. A common start time at the Coliseum has been 7:00 p.m., but a 7:30 p.m. face-off in Brooklyn is being discussed to give fans a little more time to get to the game.
“I’ll think you’ll see a couple of different things,” Mangione said. “We’re working with the NHL to see what makes the most sense. If it’s going to help the fan we want to make sure that we can do that.”
While the Islanders will be calling Brooklyn their new home, they are not completely abandoning their roots.
The Islanders will continue to practice on Long Island while also maintaining a presence in the community. There are also plans for the Islanders to play six games (preseason and regular season combined) per season at the renovated Nassau Coliseum once the $229 million transformation is completed by Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner.
It will take some getting used to, but the Islanders will finally have the state-of-the art home that they have coveted for years when they make the move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season. The players will have top-notch facilities and the fans will have amenities that they’ve never experienced before.
From a geographic standpoint, Brooklyn is part of Long Island. So while the Isles are leaving Nassau County, they’re still Islanders!
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @NYIslanders and @barclayscenter. For information on Islanders season tickets in Brooklyn, call 1-844-33-ISLES or go to www.barclayscenter.com/ny-islanders.