By Jeff Capellini
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Jon Ledecky may see the writing on the wall as far as a new arena for the Islanders is concerned.READ MORE: At Least 2 Injured In Upper West Side Shooting
That’s not to say the team’s new co-owner doesn’t want to one day move the franchise to a hockey-friendly building. It just appears he understands the current landscape when it comes to putting shovels in the ground in or around New York City.
Speaking to the NHL Network on Monday, Ledecky reiterated the realities of the Islanders’ current situation — Brooklyn is where the team will stay for the foreseeable future.
“Barclays Center is a first-class facility, it’s our home, and Barclays Center management has been very receptive in helping us to improve the fan experience,” Ledecky said. “It’s interesting to read press accounts, but Barclays Center is our home, and even if one was to surmise that a new arena was being planned, that would take a long time in the New York market.”
Ledecky was referring to various reports that have linked the Islanders to potential new arenas in Queens, next to Citi Field, and at Belmont Park in Elmont. The red tape and logistics at both locations are prohibitive. That doesn’t mean something won’t be done in the future, but it does mean whatever plans the Isles have in mind for a new arena will take years to come to fruition, if at all.
In the interim, Ledecky said the team and Barclays Center are working on fixes to the game-day experience, something that came under fire repeatedly during the 2015-16 season, the team’s first in Brooklyn following a 43-year stay at Nassau Coliseum.
“I think what we’re focused on is improving the fan experience, improving transportation to and from the games for the fans who remain loyal from the Long Island market, making fans in the New York City metropolitan area understand that we have a great team and making sure the experience inside Barclays is an A-plus experience both for the fans and for the players,” Ledecky said.
Exactly what changes will be made have not been revealed, but they almost certainly will not address, at least to the fans’ liking, the troublesome obstructed-view seating that is prevalent in certain parts of the arena. The physical altering of Barclays Center’s footprint, if even possible, is not something that appears to be on the docket at this time.
“To their credit, (CEO) Brett Yormark and his group at Barclays Center have been working very actively in the offseason to improve the experience on many different levels, and I’m sure at the appropriate time, we’ll roll out an announcement about what we’ve done in the offseason to welcome the fans even more to Barclays,” Ledecky said.
Barclays Center, which had been home to only the NBA’s Nets prior to the Islanders’ relocation, received a lot of criticism last season because of its apparent lack of understanding of the hockey fan. Changes to the experience likely will revolve around travel to and from the arena and the paying public being permitted to participate in pregame rituals, like fans used to do at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders have been proactive with their fans, holding focus groups and town hall meetings. The prevailing demand is for the people who work inside Barclays to have a better understanding of the hockey-specific paying public.
CBSNewYork.com took to Twitter on Tuesday to find out more of what the fans are looking for. Here are some of their suggestions for Barclays Center:READ MORE: Teacher Stephanie Edmonds On Why She's Not Getting The COVID Vaccine, Despite Mandate: 'The Hardest Decision I've Ever Made'
• Safety is of paramount importance. Fans want more security.
• Allow fans to move down into the lower-bowl seating to watch warmups, even if they don’t have a ticket for the sections in question.
• Work with the Long Island Rail Road to increase the numbers of trains going to and from the arena. Overcrowding was cited as a nuisance throughout the 2015-16 season. Suffolk County fans, specifically, cited a longer-than-necessary experience on the rails.
• Season ticket holders would like easier access getting into the arena. The Islanders and Barclays Center are reportedly working on this problem and will likely issue new cards that can be scanned instead of swiped. Fans are also expected to receive lanyards to hold their cards.
• Decrease the wait time for concessions. While very few fans have actually complained about the variety of foods and drinks, they don’t like the idea of missing portions of periods standing in line.
• Increase the number of Saturday home games in the future. The Isles have just five during the 2016-17 season and just one through the end of the calendar year.
• Have more 7:30 p.m. starts during the work week, so the 9 a.m.-5 p.m. crew doesn’t miss part of the first period.
• Hang ALL of the team’s championship banners.
• Add more blue and orange signage inside the building. To some fans, Barclays feels too generic.
• Pump up the volume a bit on the scoreboard during play stoppages, and while they’re at it perhaps the powers that be can crank the goal horn to a higher decibel level, like it used to be at the Coliseum.
Barclays is sure to address in some form many of the above requests, but the entire Islanders experience in Brooklyn will remain a work in progress. While the team continuing to win on the ice will go a long way toward assuaging some of the angst about the arena, there will remain a large faction of fans who will continue to scrutinize everything Barclays Center does.
It’s up to Barclays to win those people over.
After all, the building was once sold to the fans as “Tradition’s New Home.”MORE NEWS: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Republican Candidate Jack Ciattarelli Face Off In Fiery Debate
Jeff writes about the Islanders for CBSNewYork.com. Read his columns here, and be sure to follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet