NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Islanders’ 25-year lease at Barclays Center isn’t as ironclad as first thought.
There has been constant speculation as to how long the agreement between the NHL franchise and the Brooklyn arena can potentially last, provided one, or both, of the parties decides it is no longer satisfied with the marriage.
Though Barclays is paying the Islanders tens of millions of dollars a year to play in Brooklyn, there have been numerous reports suggesting the team’s new ownership is not satisfied with the lease and as a result is looking to build its own hockey-friendly arena somewhere in the New York City area, most notably in Queens or at Belmont Park on Long Island.
Barclays Center, as most everyone knows at this point, was not built with hockey in mind, something that became a major sticking point with fans during the team’s inaugural 2015-16 season in Brooklyn following its 43-year run at Nassau Coliseum.
But the details of how a potential opt-out clause could be exercised, and by whom, remained murky.
That is until a recent Newsday report revealed some specifics.
According to a summary of the lease agreement obtained by the newspaper, either the Isles or Barclays can opt out in the next handful of years.
The Islanders can leave after three seasons if they deem the situation unsatisfactory, but only after “good-faith discussions” are held between the team and the arena, Newsday reported.
One reason why the Islanders may choose to opt out is because Barclays currently takes home the bulk of the regular season game revenue, while the Isles only receive an annual 1.5 percent increase on the $53.5 million payment they started to receive from Barclays last season. Another factor that could play into a potential move by the team is the NBA’s Nets having scheduling preferences, something that has likely contributed to the hockey team not having all that many Saturday home games.
Following the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, the Isles and Barclays have until Jan. 1, 2018, to renegotiate the terms of the lease. If no new deal is reached, and assuming the lease as-is is still deemed to have problems, the sides have until Jan. 30, 2018, to submit in writing their intention to opt out, Newsday reported.
If the Islanders choose to opt out, they can leave after their third or fourth season in Brooklyn. If Barclays chooses to get out of the deal, the Isles must vacate the premises after the fourth season, the newspaper added.
One thing that seems unlikely at this point is the Islanders having a new arena built in time to coincide with a potential opt-out, given the red tape that comes with building in the New York City area and the relatively small window in which they’d have to get everything done. That is, of course, assuming that they don’t choose to opt out and play temporarily somewhere else in the area.
New co-owner Jon Ledecky seemed to admit as much during an interview on the NHL Network two weeks ago and then touched on the issue again at last week’s memorial marking the one-year anniversary of the death of legendary coach Al Arbour when he reaffirmed that Barclays would remain the Isles’ home “for years to come.”
How many years will remain the question.
Since the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, the Islanders and Barclays Center have been working on improving the game-day experience at the arena. While it’s highly probable fans won’t have to deal as much with Barclays personnel not schooled in hockey traditions, long concession-line wait times and insufficient train schedules on the Long Island Rail Road, it appears almost certain that the arena’s embarrassing obstructed-view seating is here to stay. Just how much that will ultimately play into a potential opt-out by the Isles remains to be seen.
So, the Islanders remain a professional sports franchise with an arena situation in flux, continuing a disconcerting scenario that has annoyed fans for years. A potential opt-out of the Barclays lease will almost certainly require that serious inroads be made on the new arena front. But as we’ve seen time and again, wanting a new arena is one thing, while actually jumping through all the hoops necessary to get one built is something else.