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Just because something sounds like a good idea, doesn’t mean it is. Just look at the Brooklyn debacle.
The Islanders and BSE (Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment), the owners of Barclays Center, have 30 days after the end of the season to renegotiate the supposed “iron-clad” 25-year agreement the Islanders signed when they moved to Brooklyn last year. Although the clock is ticking, one of the parties will likely soon make a move. Playing the waiting game helps no one. This is not a match, plain and simple, and if there are ways to undo this mess, they must be examined.
The LIA (Long Island Association), the region’s largest business group, thinks the Islanders should move back to the Coliseum. Who exactly put that idea in their head? Who made them think up this brilliant plan? Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment you say? Wait, aren’t they the same ones who own the Coliseum? Oh, well of course! It’s a brilliant PR move. BSE says get out of our arena that wasn’t made for hockey, and go back to your old place. We will make it easy for you since we own that too! You can renegotiate with the company…wait that’s us! When word leaks to the public BSE says “hey, we are just trying to bring the team back where they belong!” Of course they are going to say that. It’s the way they make the most money while coming out smelling like roses.
Everything isn’t always what it seems. Let’s be straight here. The Islanders should not even entertain a return to the Coliseum. The new Nassau Coliseum is not “NEW.” It got a bit of a makeover so it looks more modern..that doesn’t make it new. Sure, it has a nice new look, some new food options which are nice, and a new facade which is nice. The inside was even redesigned with a new color scheme. That’s…nice.
They also added more seats, they widened the narrow corridors, they made it a bright color inside, they have Islander memories everywhere, there is ample entertainment in the newly renovated area, and there is now a LIRR stop right at the arena. Wait, none of that is true. They did nothing to improve the arena, the area, or even the transportation situation. They put lipstick on a pig and gave it their own first prize.
The Isles’ answer should be a flat out no, and it doesn’t take much thinking.
There are two sites vying for the Islanders’ attention; Willets Point next to Citi Field in Queens, and the Belmont Park area in Elmont. Despite the obvious hurdles that would come with building a new arena, both would be great for the Islanders in their own way. But, the biggest thing for the Islanders would be to have their own home again. It would be a building built for the New York Islanders and other things, not the other way around. Why would the Islanders go back to a place, in the Nassau Coliseum, that has not made any significant changes since they left? If nothing else, there’s still no public transportation to the arena.
For their part, BSE has pledged to make changes if the Islanders come back. They say they would add more seats, among other things. That’s great, but unless you knock the place down and start over there isn’t a single good reason, other than nostalgia, for the Islanders to go back to Uniondale.
Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to Mike Francesa on WFAN this afternoon about the arena possibilities. “The fact that they’re looking at building a hockey-functioning building is a good thing,” Bettman said. “The fact that there are a lot of options in terms of where they can build it as they’re considering the possibilities, I think that’s all good. And if I’m an Islander fan and I live in Nassau and Suffolk, I’ve got to be somewhere between excited and intrigued at the possibilities.”
Bettman flat out told Francesa the Coliseum is “not a long-term option.” In fact, he doesn’t even know if it’s a short-term option. And, he’s right. It’s a nice story, but it makes no sense. There are so many more possibilities for the future of this hockey team if they play in Queens or Elmont. Fans may finally have the future of their dreams with a new arena. Think Lighthouse project in a new area. Movies, shops, restaurants, entertainment and more are a possibility. Either place could develop into a multi-use, multi-faceted, year-round entertainment destination. Or, you could go back to Uniondale because once upon a time you played there.
Bob McKenzie broke a story yesterday, reporting the Isles are heavily leaning towards Elmont, and were in negotiations to build a new home next to Belmont race track. Of course, right now everything is just conjecture, but if this has any legs to it whatsoever, the Islanders must pursue it.
Oh, and if you’re worried about this whole thing breaking down, and Ledecky and Malkin moving the team elsewhere? Forget it. Bettman told Francesa, “Scott Malkin did not buy this team to move them out of the area.” While that’s good news, it often feels like as an Islanders’ fan you wait for the other shoe to drop.
Let’s just hope that for once, this is the start of a major change for the positive for the Islanders and the fans. We have certainly waited long enough.