After years of speculation, countless proposals, and endless rejections, the New York Islanders have finally cemented their stay in the New York area.
Charles Wang, along with Bruce Ratner, Marty Markowitz, Gary Bettman, and mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the New York Islanders will be staying in the New York area through 2030. Starting in 2015, the Isles will begin to play their home games at the Barclays Center, an arena that is just getting ready to accommodate its first tenants, the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
Ever since the rejection of the Lighthouse Project and a failed August 1st, 2011 referendum, many have surmised a potential landing point for the New York Islanders in 2015. Optimists on Long Island were undoubtedly holding their breath for a possible agreement between the Islanders and Nassau County, but the reality was that the Nassau County political machine would not cave in its dealings with Charles Wang. Wang’s vision for renovating the Nassau Coliseum and the 77-acre sea of concrete surrounding the arena was constantly labeled as “too grandiose” by Nassau County politicians and the time for a change of scenery grew closer with every subsequent rejection for renovation.
While the 2015-2016 NHL season is still years away from starting, Islanders fans have something to look forward to in the coming years as the team finishes out its lease on Long Island.
Here are some reasons why the Isles’ future looks all the more brighter in Brooklyn:
Since the Islanders will be moving out of Nassau County and settling into Kings County, one must consider the possibility that the team will now attract a new set of fans.
Brooklyn might be considered by many to be “Blueshirt County,” but the New York Islanders will certainly gain some traction in such a highly populated area. Unlike the Nassau Coliseum, the Barclays Center is located in the heart of downtown Brooklyn’s commercial district, an area that is full of traffic from the morning to nighttime hours. Not only will the Islanders probably enjoy a heavy marketing campaign for their move to Brooklyn, the team will undoubtedly generate interest based on word of mouth and classic New York gossip.
Getting to the Barclays Center will likely be a challenge for the deep-rooted Islanders fans in Long Island, but MTA and LIRR transportation will bring a perfect mixture of Brooklynites and Long Islanders to the arena with ease.
For years, Islanders fans were accustomed to driving out to Nassau Coliseum or taking the LIRR to Mineola in order to see their favorite team. Even though the commute to see the Islanders will be that much more complicated for natives of Long Island come 2015, the LIRR offers many viable options for a relaxed commute. While fans that live near the Port Washington line will be at an extreme disadvantage in terms of making their way out to the arena, the average LIRR traveler will get to the Barclays Center in the same amount of time that it takes one to get to MSG using the same mode of transportation.
On the other hand, the MTA will offer another form of transportation for Islanders and hockey fans that live in the five boroughs. As it stands right now, the Barclays Center has nine different lines (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, & R) that can offer its commuters easy access to the arena. Fans from Queens will have access to the Q, R, and N lines which could get individuals to the arena in under two hours depending on where one is traveling from.
All in all, transportation for the average Long Islander will undoubtedly be increased and will require quite a bit of dedication to travel to and from Brooklyn, especially on a weekday. Much like the area surrounding Madison Square Garden, parking will be hard to find in the surrounding area unless one has the money to shell out for expensive parking garages. However, for those that are willing to sacrifice the time and effort to get to Brooklyn via mass transportation, the LIRR and MTA will offer a form of transportation that will allow the average fan to kick back and enjoy their evening ride home.
Availability of Amenities
Nassau Coliseum might have been surrounding by a huge parking lot and tons of concrete, but the Barclays Center will offer its visitors a number of venues to frequent before and after hockey games.
Shopping outlets and restaurants will undoubtedly see a spike in business when the 2015-2016 NHL season begins, and there are certainly a number of places that hockey fans would not mind visiting if they find themselves with time to spare. Long Islanders that have had the pleasure of eating at the Cheesecake Factory out in Long Island might just be persuaded to take a trip down the block to Junior’s Cheesecake in search of a slice of heavenly dessert. Others might not be encouraged to indulge in their sweet tooth, but the downtown Brooklyn area also offers refuge for shopaholics.
If one isn’t interested in dining before a hockey game, stores such as Foot Locker and Macy’s can give certain visitors a good opportunity to do some shopping. While shopping and eating won’t be on the forefront of everyone that visits the arena, the downtown Brooklyn area will certainly be an improvement over the sea of concrete that currently envelops the Nassau Coliseum.
Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain
The New York Islanders will leave the place that they called home since 1972 when the NHL introduced the Isles as an expansion franchise. After a historic dynasty run that featured four straight Stanley Cup victories, the Isles’ legacy was marred by a string of incompetent ownership groups that ran the franchise throughout the 1990s.
The move to Brooklyn doesn’t just free the Isles from the Nassau County political machine, it offers the franchise another opportunity to expand their fan-base after years of poor attendance in the NHL’s most outdated facility.
Many will argue that the horse-shoe configuration that the Barclays Center has for hockey will be unsuitable for hockey fans, but Charles Wang and Bruce Ratner have three years to plan and execute a way to reconfigure the arena’s hockey arrangements. Since Ratner’s arena was scaled down considerably from his initial vision, both Wang and Ratner will have to figure out a way to accommodate the viewing pleasures for hockey fans.
For the meantime, Wang had this to say during Monday afternoon’s press conference:
“When the New York Islanders came into existence in 1972 they shared the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum with the New York Nets, and this announcement today reunites these two franchises. As everyone knows, we had tried very hard to keep the Islanders in their original home in Nassau County. I want to thank specifically, Nassau County executive Ed Mangano and his team for trying to find the solution to keep us there. Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve that dream…And as I said earlier, our goal from the outset was to have the Islanders play in a local, world-class facility that possessed the amenities that our fans deserved…”
The trek to Brooklyn is still a few years away, but that does not mean that the population in Brooklyn will be completely surprised when the Isles become permanent residents in the borough. Fans on Long Island have undoubtedly made John Tavares into a household name already, and other talented youngsters such as Travis Hamonic and Ryan Strome will be looking to make a name for themselves as solid hockey players by the time the Islanders make the switch from Nassau to Kings County.
In addition to their youth movement, a new state-of-the-art facility such as the Barclays Center gives the Islanders an attractive piece of eye candy to present to future free agents. Throughout the Isles’ history, there have been players that have loved playing and living on Long Island, and other players who were simply not of the same disposition. In contrast, playing in Brooklyn will afford future free agents the possibility of living in or around the five boroughs while being relatively close to the home arena.
If anything, Islanders fans now have the privilege of knowing that their favorite team (team name and logo included) will be staying in the New York area. Even though many Long Island natives will be upset with the loss of their only professional sports franchise, the move to Brooklyn will give the team a new lease on life in the New York area. Much can be debated and planned until 2015, but one thing is for certain, the New York Islanders and their fans can breathe easy knowing that Islanders hockey will still be in New York after years of quarrel on Long Island.
In his third year with The Hockey Writers, Toli covers all things related to the New York Islanders. Focusing on the Islanders, the NHL Draft & draft-eligible prospect goalies, and hockey history, Toli can be contacted on Facebook by searching/messaging Toli Metter and on twitter by searching @ToliMetterTHW.