Goddamnit. Wouldn’t it be great to have a day where the Islanders are off (preferably after a huge win and sitting in a playoff spot), and we didn’t have to hear some claptrap about either an arena the team is currently playing in or that someone wants them to play in? Is that too much to ask? Seriously?
Sigh. Forget it. The latest scuttlebutt comes, once again, from Bloomberg News, the studio that brought you, “Barclays Center To Dump Islanders” even though the actual story was much less dire than the headline made it sound. This time, writer Scott Shosnick reports that some powerful folks are “lining up to invest” in an arena for the Islanders located at Belmont Park, right near the Queens-Nassau border. The principles include the Islanders owners, the development company owned by Mets owner Fred Wilpon, and a company called the Oak View Group, which manages some of the biggest arenas in North America.
The Oak View Group includes big shots like former Maple Leafs president Tim Leiweke, music industry muckety-muck Irving Azoff, former Panther chairman and Flyers CEO Peter Luukko and one James Dolan, owner of the Rangers, Knicks, Madison Square Garden and one of the largest fedora collections on the East Coast.
I’ll give you one guess who got the lede of the story:
The new arena proposal is a joint venture between the Islanders, Oak View Group and Sterling Project Development, said the people, who asked to be anonymous because the talks are private. James Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Co., which controls the Rangers, long the Islanders hated rivals, is an investor in Oak View Group, the private equity group run by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff. The Wilpon family, which owns the Mets, controls Sterling Project Development.
NHL rules permit the owner of one team to have a stake in another club’s arena.
For those of us that have been chasing Islanders arena white whales for half their lives, the inclusion of Dolan is of much less interest than the fact that there are people - apparently smart, rich ones - that want to actually spend their money on building this team a home. Although some of the names and places in the story are familiar, that’s something we’ve never seen before unless we count the Lighthouse Project, which was supposed to be privately financed by then owner Charles Wang.
On its very nicely-designed website, the Oak View Group boasts brokering huge deals between artists, events and arenas to maximize exposure, sponsorships, revenue and lots of other businesspeak. Among the venues on board are MSG, the Prudential Center, Rogers Place in Vancouver, the Air Canada Center in Toronto and both Amelie Arena and the BB&T Center in Florida. Seems like kind of a big time operation that knows what a modern arena needs and how to get it.
Dolan being an investor isn’t really news except for the fact that he owns the Rangers. But since they’ve already watched Islanders games on his Cablevision systems for years, Islanders fans are used to a kind of specialized Stockholm Syndrome that comes from relying on the owner of your team’s biggest rival just to enjoy your own team. It’s horrible. I don’t recommend it.
I wasn’t even going to post anything because, like a lot of you, I’m beyond sick to death of this subject and would rather focus on the team playing well and shooting for the playoffs instead of more hot air from rich guys who want to make money off the players’ and our backs.
But beyond the provocative headlines, there might be some real firepower behind the names involved here. Take the Oak View guys and throw in New York governor Andrew Cuomo “[taking] part in the proposed arena talks and seeking to attach infrastructure improvement projects to it” and things start to make a little more sense. Perhaps Dolan could become more than a simple investor if his MSG Entertainment group, which operates the Garden, the Beacon Theater and Radio City, serves a similar purpose at this new, hypothetical arena.
Then there’s this:
And so, once a-goddamn-gain, we wait and see where this all goes. Of course, there’s also the small matters of the team’s current agreement with Barclays Center and its potential out clauses, the three-to-five year construction timeline for a project this size and the ramifications on another arena going up to compete with Barclays and the soon-to-be-re-opened Nassau Coliseum.
But that’s all discussion for another time. Tell me when the bulldozers are set to start working.
Meanwhile, the Islanders’ next game is 5 pm Saturday in Columbus.