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Arena Saga: Islanders may want Belmont, but it’s not only their call

The scuttlebutt increases, but Newsday reminds us there is a process beyond Ledecky and Malkin’s control

The 148th Belmont Stakes - Previews
And the horse you rode in on.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The never-ending arena saga surrounding the New York Islanders has picked up steam lately with more buzz about Belmont Park as the next destination if and when the imperfect Brooklyn marriage is broken. As multiple reports emerge from completely different sources, the chances increase of actual fire behind that smoke.

But as always in Islanders “areener” news and New York politics, it’s not as simple as Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin saying, “We’ve got money, we’ve got the will, let’s go... HERE.” (Just ask Charles Wang about the arena search that consumed his entire ownership tenure.)

The latest uptick in Belmont buzz began with NHL insider Bob McKenzie last week, saying he’s heard a lot that things are trending toward a relocation to Belmont.

That’s from arguably the most connected media man in NHL hockey.

Then this week there was a little more from local sports radio, with Craig Carton elaborating on the morning show he co-hosts with a former NFL quarterback on WFAN:

“Barring a last-digit [sic] change ... ‘cause like I said its is not 100 percent, they’re dotting I’s and crossing T’s, there will be a new arena on the Belmont track site that will house the Islanders in the future.”

Carton went on to rehash the “three options” that have surfaced from last 10 months of this journey, with the owners reportedly looking at a site next to CitiField, trying to get things to work out in Brooklyn (where each side has an out clause in the 25-year agreement), or trying a new spot of their own at Belmont.

(Left unmentioned there, but worth chuckling at here, is the laughable idea of them moving back into the repainted Coliseum simply because it’s managed by their current imperfect landlords.)

Aside from the bewilderment over whether yet another arena is needed in this region just because the Islanders need one (and just because the newest, er, most recently painted, kind of has the same old problems), if the Isles owners want to build one then all is golden, right?

Not so fast.

The history behind any redevelopment at Belmont is complex (it always is), but suffice to say political authorities do want some kind of development, and there have been theories that the reason they did not accept any proposals in the last round of RFPs is that they see an ideal match with the Islanders.

The MLS’s NYFC and the lower-tier resurrected New York Cosmos soccer clubs are among those that looked at the site in the past and gotten the impression there were other plans for Belmont.

But the point by Robert Brodsky — a Newsday politics reporter whose covered a ton of the Islanders (and Nassau Coliseum redevelopment) long and winding road — still stands: An RFP (that’s “Request For Proposals” from would-be developers) will be needed, and any number of bidders can respond in that process.

A series of tweets and replies by Brodsky adds more context, and is worth checking out. Brodsky says expect Empire State Development to issue a new RFP within a few weeks.

On the matter of whether the Isles would have the strongest bid, Brodsky noted for sports, yes, but if the state is eyeing other things for the site...

Anyway, there may be more (and promising?) news on this front soon. But the point is, even if the RFP comes out, they say they’re looking for a particular thing, and the Islanders owners produce a shiny and beautiful proposal about how they can perfectly fit that thing, it will still be a while before we know if it can and will happen.

And as we experienced with every single proposal to redevelop the “Hub” Nassau Coliseum property until after the Islanders finally threw up their hands and exited, just because a proposal looks great doesn’t mean the political authorities will accept it, much less see it through.