Of all the scenarios that had the Islanders leaving Barclays Center for... someplace, I thought the least likely one was the owners of the arena deciding to opt out of their agreement with the team. I figured that despite the many complaints, at least 41 home games a year would pull in enough dough to make the arrangement worth it for the arena, which prides itself as being one of the busiest in the country.
So this afternoon’s report in Bloomberg that Barclays Center is looking to “dump” the team comes as kind of a shock to me. Of course, “Kind of a Shock” could be the team’s marketing slogan during this or any other season so it’s really just par for the course.
Anyway, here’s Bloomberg (emphasis mine):
The arena, which is already home to the NBA’s Nets and one of the world’s top-grossing concert venues, would make more money without the National Hockey League team, according to people familiar with the facility’s financials.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who owns the building and the Nets, has since November been seeking an investor to take a stake in both. As of earlier this month, a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season -- a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said.
Barclays Center wouldn’t speak to the future of the Islanders. Tim Leiweke, co-founder of Oak View Group, which has been advising the hockey team in talks with the arena, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Islanders owners Jonathan Ledecky and Scott Malkin.
The first thing to notice is that this isn’t an official eviction notice. There might be one coming, but this isn’t it unless the, “people familiar with the facility’s financials” are owner Prokhorov or CEO Brett Yormark who would probably make that decision. Second is that the team hasn’t said anything and probably won’t because that’s how they roll for the most part.
(The third thing you notice is where the hell did Tim Leiweke come from? The Islanders really need to stop bringing in these old Leafs guys. Wasn’t Claude Loiselle enough?)
Just this weekend at the All Star Game in Los Angeles, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told media that the Islanders’ owners are committed to New York but that there are some issues at Barclays Center that need to be addressed. In the past, Bettman has talked up the arena as being more than suitable for an NHL team and has, vocally, denounced plans for the team to move back to Nassau County, a political graveyard Bettman fought with for the last 20 years of Nassau Coliseum’s original lifespan.
Bloomberg’s report also states that Ledecky and Malkin, “have shown no interest in returning to Long Island.” So that renovated Nassau Coliseum, the one with the 13,000 seats and no mass transit and a county that’s not big on sharing, is probably not an option. But as of right now, it might be the only one.
What are the other options? Word came out this summer that the owners had been looking at both the Willets Point arena of Queens (next to Citi Field) and the Belmont arena (back in Nassau, but on land controlled by the state). The immediate problem is that, if Barclays Center does trigger their end of the opt-out clause, the Islanders would have to vacate after the 2018-19 season.
Unless the team plans on playing 41 outdoor games in the parking lot in a collapsible rink, no arena is going up in either place in two years.
The move to Brooklyn was never a smooth one. Even with three years between the announcement in 2013 and opening game of the 2015 season, the pieces never quite fit together and it always seemed someone was trying to put on Band-Aids every time a new wound opened. But after 43 years of losing money in the suburbs, it seemed like the annual payout the team got from Barclays would have made the problems palatable. Turns out that payout might be just what gets them booted.
Here’s more from Arthur Staple and others:
All quiet from #Isles folks on Bloomberg story for now... Not a big shock Barclays wants to at least renegotiate deal with them.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 30, 2017
Fans have always viewed Barclays as a problem for #Isles, which it has been at times. But $53 million annual payment offset a lot of that.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 30, 2017
Just from talking to people the last few years, lots on the table if and when #Isles and Barclays part ways.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 30, 2017
Here's one scenario that's a whopper: #Isles make an arena deal, hire MSG events to run the building and play at MSG while arena is built.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 30, 2017
So, that's not exactly reassuring, but it's pretty clear from NHL and #Isles side that moving out of the NY area is an absolute last resort.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 30, 2017
I will say what I've said before. #isles fans have been on roller coaster for far too long. The team owners need to give them certainty soon— Randi Marshall (@randimarshall) January 30, 2017
Even if isles were to move suspect they'd renegotiate a short term lease extension rather than move out in 2years. Not enough time otherwise— garik16 (@garik16) January 30, 2017
I'm sure all of this turmoil will do wonders in convincing John Tavares to stay.— Michael Leboff (@TheBigLeebowski) January 30, 2017
So we await official word from both parties as to what happens next. And we add a new chapter to the Islanders’ never-ending quest for an actual, permanent, drama-free home. Those do exist, right?