Islanders Ready to Usher in New Era in New Arena

Monday was a busy day for the New York Islanders, who broke ground on their new Belmont Park Arena on Long Island. In addition to the groundbreaking, the Islanders announced that they would be moving seven of their regular-season games from the Barclays Center to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. With the games being added to the Long Island slate the Islanders will play a total of 28 games at the Coliseum. This marks the second year in which the NHL has allowed the Islanders to have dual home locations.

For the franchise, the whole Brooklyn experience has been a downhill one. Before the 2015-16 season, the Islanders signed a 25-year agreement to move to the Barclays Center. That deal is going to come up a bit short with the Islanders expected to move into their new arena in 2021-22. For those counting at home that’s 19 years short.

Overview of the New Venue

The new arena which will be built with hockey as the center focus is expected to cost $1.3 billion of privately funded money. This will be more than just an ice rink however with a retail center and a railroad station being built on the site. Belmont Park sits on 43 acres of state-owned land on Long Island – piece, of course, is what has fans excited.

“The Islanders belong on Long Island – and today we start building the state-of-the-art home this team and their fans deserve while generating thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity for the region’s economy,” New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press release.

New York Islanders Belmont Park Arena
Belmont Park Arena (Courtesy New York Islanders)

Belmont will be the first team-owned venue in the history of the Islanders.

Problem with Barclays Center

The Islanders’ problems with the Barclays Center have been well documented over the years. The problem was so severe that starting last season they started to host games back at the Coliseum.

Barclays has obstructed seats due to the fact that its primary use was for basketball causing some sections to be unsellable for hockey. By the time the problem was realized nothing could be done to change the layout of the venue. In addition, the arena had problems with their ice conditions which drew complaints from countless players over the years.

The number one problem with the Barclays Center, it wasn’t good for business. While attendance in the NHL as a whole has been rising the Islanders has seen their average attendance declined significantly.

The season before the move to the Barclays Center, the Islanders averaged 15,334 fans per game. In their final full season there in 2017-18, they averaged a league-worst attendance of 12,002, a minus-21.7% decline in that period of time. Only last season when they started shifting home games to the Coliseum did the attendance numbers come back a bit.

Next Steps for Islanders

This upcoming season the Islanders will have 41 home games split between two venues, the Coliseum and the Barclays Center. Of those games, 28 will be played on the Island with just 13 remaining in the Barclays Center.

Unfortunately for the Islanders and their fans, they have two more seasons of waiting for their future home of Belmont Park. It is unclear what the team’s plans will be for the 2020-21 season and if they’ll do a third season of splitting time between two venues. Back when the split-home venue was announced, the team had planned on a total of 48 games being played at the Coliseum between the 2019-20 season and 2020-21. With 28 games already on tap for the 2019-20 season a the Coliseum it is hard to imagine the Islanders cutting that back to just 20 games in the 2020-21 season.