NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York Islanders’ never-ending wait for a new arena appears to finally be over.
According to multiple reports, Empire State Development has picked the Islanders’ bid to develop the land near Belmont Park. The team plans to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat hockey arena, in addition to retail, a hotel and community centers. The Isles’ bid also includes plans to reopen the nearby Long Island Rail Road Belmont Park station stop.
Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club had also sought the land.
A news conference formally announcing the winner is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Belmont Park racetrack. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to be in attendance.
The Isles’ development partners are Sterling Project Development, which is run by the Mets’ Wilpon family, and Oak View Group, which is partially funded by Madison Square Garden.
The Islanders desperately needed the ruling to go in their favor as their experience at Barclays Center, where they have played their home games since 2015, has been anything but smooth. It had been reported that Barclays no longer wanted the Islanders as tenants, and there are clauses in the team’s 25-year lease that allow either side to opt out. Team co-owner Jon Ledecky had said on multiple occasions the Isles did not have a Plan B for a new home if their quest for Belmont Park had failed.
Now, the Isles aren’t thinking about opting out of their lease at Barclays; they are looking to renegotiate something short-term, perhaps to cover the three or so seasons it will take to build their new arena.
“The next big date is Jan. 1. That’s when they have to wrap up negotiations on amending their lease,” Newsday reporter Jim Baumbach told WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Tuesday afternoon. “So we’re going to find out by Jan. 1 if Brooklyn works. And when I talk to people who are in the know with this thing, they’re not concerned, and they really feel like they can work out a deal that makes sense for Brooklyn.”
Ledecky had earlier said the Islanders would play in Brooklyn during the 2018-19 regardless of the state’s ruling on Belmont Park.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told WFAN last month that he expected that the Islanders would work out an arrangement to remain at Barclays in the event the ruling came down in their favor.
The Islanders moving full-speed ahead toward building a new arena in Nassau County was once considered an impossible dream. Under previous owner Charles Wang, the team tried on multiple occasions to get something done at Nassau Coliseum, the arena the franchise called home from 1972 until 2015. However, its attempts to privately fund a new arena were derailed by Nassau County politicians before a proposal to renovate the coliseum was axed by residents.
Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin had vowed since they bought the team from Wang in October 2014 to eventually build a “world class” facility for the Islanders, something that many thought was a far-fetched idea given the bureaucracy that tends to thwart project proposals in the New York City area.
As far as the Islanders on the ice are concerned, Tuesday’s bombshell could lead to very important player-personnel decisions in the coming months. Team captain and superstar center John Tavares is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and though he has always said his first choice is to stay with the Islanders, he reportedly had concerns about where the team would play its home games in the future.
That issue appears to be solved.