NEW YORK (WFAN) — It’s Belmont or bust.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday that New York Islanders are laser focused on building an arena near Belmont Park and don’t have a Plan B to speak of.
Talking to WFAN’s Mike Francesa, Bettman said Islanders owner Scott Malkin is awaiting the results of the state’s request for proposal (RFP), for which the franchise submitted a bid in September, to redevelop 36 acres near the border of New York City and Nassau County.
“Scott is committed to getting a new arena,” Bettman said. “He believes, as do I, that Belmont is the perfect location.”
When asked if there was a fallback plan, Bettman indicated there really was none at this time. He said the Islanders can’t remain at the Brooklyn’s Barclays Center long-term and returning to Nassau Coliseum is not an option.
“This is it,” he said of the Belmont location. “And we believe this will work, and our hope is that the RFP goes through, that the Islanders — Scott Malkin, Jon Ledecky — are granted the rights to build the building.
“They’ll probably build it in the (17,500 seating capacity) range, which is perfect for hockey. It’ll be designed for a hockey team. It’ll also be a venue, I believe, (for) concerts and basketball. And it’ll be great for Long Island.”
The commissioner said the arena could be built in less than three years and he would expect the Islanders to remain at Barclays until then.
Bettman added that Islanders fans should not fear the team leaving the area.
“Scott Malkin bought the team to have the team in New York,” he said. “He didn’t buy the team to have it anywhere else.”
The Islanders moved from Nassau Coliseum to Barclays before the 2015-16 season, but Barclays officials have reportedly concluded the venue would be better off financially without the team, leaving the NHL franchise scrambling to find a new home.
This season, the Islanders are averaging just 11,674 fans per game, which ranks 30th out of 31 teams.
To listen to Francesa’s interview with Bettman, in which the commissioner also discusses the Vegas Golden Knights’ instant success, new technology in the sport and more, click on the audio player above.