NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Are the Islanders and Barclays Center already headed toward a divorce?
The New York Post reported Friday night that both sides have been exploring ways to cut ties or modify the NHL team’s lease in the Brooklyn arena.
The Islanders just moved into Barclays Center this season, but they have struggled to attract new fans in Brooklyn while the supporters who have come to the arena have complained about obstructed-view seats and the loss of some traditions from the team’s decades on Long Island.
“I think it really hasn’t worked for either side,” Josh Kosman, one of the Post reporters behind the story, told WFAN’s Evan Roberts on Monday.
Kosman noted that Barclays Center agreed to pay the Islanders $53.5 million a year believing the team would at least rank in the middle of the NHL in attendance. Instead, the Islanders are 28th out of 30 teams this season.
“They (Barclays Center) are stuck paying this money, and it’s good for the Islanders, at least short-term,” Kosman said. “They’re not losing money this season. But for Barclays, this has not been a very good deal. And the people who drew the deal — Bruce Ratner from Barclays, and on the Islanders’ side, Charles Wang — are not really involved anymore.”
The Islanders’ lease is for 25 years, but it contains a four-year escape clause, Kosman said.
“So realistically, if Barclays doesn’t like the deal and the Islanders don’t like the fact that they’re drawing 28th out of 30 – even though they’re getting guaranteed revenue – this would be about the time you’d start talking about it because you don’t want to be waiting until the last minute,” Kosman said.
“I think the executives within the Islanders believe Barclays is going to execute their out.”
The Islanders could find themselves in a position where they have to agree to new lease terms that are more favorable for Barclays Center or find a new home.
“I think the Islanders would love to move to Queens, to create an arena in Willets Point. How realistic that is? I’m not sure,” Kosman said, adding that New York state has largely been resistant to building publically financed stadiums.
Nassau Coliseum, the Isles’ home for 43 years, is undergoing a $260 million renovation, but it’s seating capacity is being cut to 13,000, making it too small for the NHL.
Kosman said he believes there was some “short-sightedness” by both the Islanders’ owner, who tried for years to get a new arena built on Long Island, and the Barclays Center.
“When Barclays Center was built, the owner of Barclays at the time … went to Charles Wang, the present and outgoing owner of the Islanders, and said” ‘Look, last shot. Are you guys moving to Brooklyn? Do you want to come?’ And they said no,” Kosman said. “So they elected to make Barclays just a one–sport arena.
“From the same standpoint, considering the nights they had to fill there, couldnn’t have Barclays, when they had the chance and building the arena could have spent what only would have been an extra $10 million or so and made it a two-sport arena? They didn’t because Charles Wang had told them no. And now that looks like a real foolish move on both ends.”