It sounds as though the chances are looking good for the New York Islanders to obtain a new, permanent, hockey-first home.
A report by Mark Berner of HorseRacingInsider.com on Tuesday night revealed that Empire State Development “is ever closer” to awarding the Islanders and Oak View Group the bid to build a new arena on the land of Belmont Park in Elmont, NY.
Originally, three groups submitted proposals to build at the site on the Sept. 28 deadline handed down by New York State. Blumenfeld Development Group backed out on Tuesday, narrowing it down to the Islanders and New York City Football Club of Major League Soccer.
While NYCFC has considered looking at other sites, Islanders ownership has been made it abundantly clear that it’s Belmont or bust.
“We have no Plan B,” Islanders co-owner John Ledecky told reporters on Sunday. “And we haven’t even thought about one.”
Should the Islanders not get this bid, it could be time to panic. The organization is expected to leave the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the 2018-19 season, though they must strike a deal to prematurely end the 25-year lease by Jan. 30. The deadline for negotiations end on Jan. 1, meaning the Islanders have to find out about Belmont sooner rather than later.
The relationship between the franchise and venue has been anything but fruitful.
Numerous obstructed-view seats, an off-center scoreboard and inconsistent ice conditions have made it difficult for fans to consider the Barclays home. Given that most of the fanbase still resides on Long Island, it was also a big ask to get them onto trains every game night and get them out to Brooklyn.
Those are just some of the reasons why the Islanders rank dead-last in the NHL in home attendance, averaging a shameful 11,685 fans per game. That’s filling just 73.5 percent of the building.
Belmont Park is just seven miles down Hempstead Turnpike from the Islanders’ first home, the Nassau Coliseum, and will be far more accessible to a bulk of the team’s fans. However, a 2,000-car parking lot in the proposed plans won’t sit well with many who wish to tailgate like they did at the Coliseum. Granted, there is a train station on the grounds that will give fans easy access to the building and help control traffic around the area.
Fans might not mind taking the train to an arena built for hockey considering the venue is expected to hold 16,500 unobstructed seats for hockey. The Barclays Center holds 15,795 for NHL games, but there are countless sections that do not offer a full view of the ice, driving that number significantly down.
Per Berner, the Islanders would want to break ground on the new arena next spring should they win the bid. Here is what their new digs could look like, via Berner: