Thursday
Oct252012

Islanders Go West — 22 Miles From Uniondale, Long Island To Brooklyn, NY

By Barry Janoff

October 24, 2012: Another Day, another team for Brooklyn. This time, Barclays Center welcomed the NHL's New York Islanders, a franchise that has been around since 1972 and won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-83.

The news came just eight days before the Brooklyn Nets officially open their first NBA season in the newly built venue, a Nov. 1 home game against the cross-town rival New York Knicks.

The Islanders, under the ownership of businessman Charles Wang, have been seeking to either move from or have its home arena Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum renovated. This past August, a proposal to have a new arena built was rejected by voters.

The move became a reality at a press conference on Wednesday that was attended by Wang, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Barclays Center developer and majority owner Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz and Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

The move itself is scheduled to take place in time for the 2015-16 NHL season. The Islanders current lease at Nassau Coliseum, which the team has called home since 1972, expires in 2015.

The new deal at Barclays Center is for 25 years and is, as Wang himself stated, "iron-clad." However, it still must be approved by the NHL's Board of Governors.

"Our goal from the outset was to have the Islanders play in a local, world-class facility that possesses the amenities our fans deserve," Wang said during the media event, standing in front of a curtain adorned with the logos of the Islands and Barclays Center. "I'm happy to announce we achieve that goal with today's announcement."

According to Yormark, "Today we begin taking season-ticket orders for the Islanders 2015-16 season."

Seating for hockey will be 14,500 but executives already discussed adding about 500 more seats.

Ironically, a pre-season game at Barclays Center between the Islanders and the New Jersey Devils scheduled for Oct. 2 was canceled due to the NHL lockout, a result of the on-going contract dispute between the league and the NHL Players Assn.

"Charles got offers to move the team out of our state, and very good offers, and Charles wouldn't do that," said Ratner, who is also a part-owner of the Nets alongside majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov. "Charles wanted to keep them in the state of New York, local. Charles Wang is the real hero today. He has kept this team in New York state. So we welcome the Islanders. We welcome their fans. We welcome the new Brooklyn fans and we're all going to enjoy hockey here. It's a wonderful thing for everybody."

When asked if executives at Nassau Coliseum and politicians in Nassau County had been blindsided by the move, Wang replied, "This should come as no surprise. It's well known that we've been looking to move for some time."

"I know [Charles Wang] has spent the better part of a decade in pursuit of a new local home for the Islanders because he is passionate about this area," said Bettman. "To finally be in position to say to New York Islander fans you don't have to worry about the future of this club, the club is staying local, you'll be able to get to it easily — for us, for Islander fans, I know for Charles and Bruce Ratner is a dream come true."

After some eight years on the drawing board and under construction, Barclays Center opened with a Jay-Z concert on Sept. 28. The Brooklyn-born Jay-Z, who owns a minority interest in the Nets, played eight concerts, which were followed by two concerts by Barbra Streisand, another Brooklyn-born performer.

"We welcome the Islanders. We welcome their fans. We welcome the new Brooklyn fans and we're all going to enjoy hockey here."

In addition to naming-rights holder Barclays, venue founding partners include American Express, Calvin Klein, Cushman & Wakefield, EmblemHealth, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Geico, Honda, MetroPCS, TicketMaster and Stolichnaya.

Other sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Haier America, HighPoint Solutions, New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, Red Bull, Sony, Tyco and Willis.

Wang reminded attendees at the media conference that when the Islanders came into existence in 1972, the then New York Nets were tenants in the Nassau Coliseum until 1977, when the Nets moved to New Jersey. "This announcement today reunites these two franchises," said Wang.

Participants in the announcement maintained the mantra that Barclays Center was easily accessible to fans via the Long Island Rail Road and some 11 subway lines within yards of the venue's front door. That would include fans who live on Long Island and might be feeling left behind by the move.

"I took the subway here. It is easy to get here," said Bloomberg. "There is more mass transit under this building than any other stadium in New York City, and that makes it more accessible for everybody. The fans from the team's current home in Nassau County can just take the LIRR, it stops just right across the street."

Q&A: Lights! Camera! Action At Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

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