Islanders may look to break Brooklyn lease already, claims terrible excuse for newspaper

The owners of the New York Islanders are already looking to get out of their lease at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in their first season there, according to the New York Post:

The lease includes a little-known out clause that kicks in after the fourth season that both sides could take advantage of, sources said.

“I don’t think either side ever believed the full lease would be honored,” said a source briefed on the matter. “I just didn’t think we’d be talking about this the first year in.”

Although the Islanders own one of the NHL’s top home records, their fans have been quite sour about the move, complaining about obstructed-view seating, jacked-up ticket prices, the nixing of longtime team traditions and feeling like second-class citizens in a building monopolized by the NBA’s Nets.

Jonathan Ledecky — who heads a group of investors set to replace Wang as the team’s majority owner July 1 — apparently is listening. A source close to the Islanders and other industry sources say he’s enamored with possibly moving the team to Queens or back to Long Island.

If you’re reading carefully, you’ll notice that the above report comes with a major caveat — namely, “according to the New York Post,” which has never been known to pass up an “EXCLUSIVE!” just because it’s not so much actually true. (Past Post reports based on unnamed sources have included the imminent construction of an MLS stadium in Queens and the possible purchase of the Nets arena by AEG, neither of which ever happened; Islanders blog Lighthouse Hockey notes that the co-author of this story, Josh Kosman, himself previously reported the Phoenix Coyotes being about to move to Las Vegas and the NHL taking over control of the New Jersey Devils, which also turned out to be vapornews. And don’t even get me started about the “beggar invasion.”) A new arena in Queens is extraordinarily unlikely to happen — the cost would be prohibitive, and there are no available sites with good transit for both drivers and transit riders — and the Nassau Coliseum is in the midst of being renovated down to 13,000 capacity, so there are some major roadblocks here.

Still, new owner, new strategy, maybe? Wang only moved the team to Brooklyn out of frustration with not getting a new arena out of Nassau County; it seemed like a dubious idea at the time given that the Barclays Center was designed specifically not to fit hockey, and it hasn’t been all that popular with fans, so sure, if there’s really an out clause in the lease, this might be a good time to use it. It’s hard to see Ledecky getting much of a local bidding war going for his team’s presence, but hey, he can always start rattling the Kansas City saber.


22 comments on “Islanders may look to break Brooklyn lease already, claims terrible excuse for newspaper

  1. I think many of us believed that Wang dropped the ball badly when he didn’t get involved with the Ratner project up front. He had the opportunity to do so, but balked at being asked to contribute to the cost of making the facility “hockey compatible”. So Ratner designed it not to suit hockey.

    It’s true that CW had a pipe dream lighthouse project theoretically on the go in Nassau county at the time, but no-one seriously believed that a $4bn+ project could happen in a county already under the administration of a financial caretaker.

    So it’s chickens coming home to roost for the franchise, really. They might make more money in Brooklyn overall than they did in the coliseum, hard to say. But its never going to be a real money spinner for them because of the arena and the lease deal they agreed to. It could have been a transformative move if the club had jumped into the Brooklyn arena early on, but they did not.

    I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, this is an organization which ended it’s GM search a few years ago when it’s backup goalie decided that he might like to become a GM and the owner handed him the job on the spot… new ownership may or may not help, but it can’t come soon enough.

  2. If the new ownership really wants to move the team back to Long Island it would take at least another $100 million in renovations (over and above the $250 million in the initial renovations-in reality the cost of constructing a new building) to bring the Coliseum up to NHL stanards-i.e., more luxury boxes, increased capacity, etc.

    In addition, modifications (or a new lease) with Nassau County would have to be negotiated.

    Interesting that there has been been no announcement that a minor league AHL hockey team will be moved to play there-as is conditioned in the present lease with Nassau County.

    When I drove past the building the other day, major construction has not yet begun (for a building scheduled to reopen in December, 2016) so clearly something is going on.

    The alternative is to spend the $100 million to renovate the lower bowl in Brooklyn to eliminate the obstructed seats in the building.

    If that happens Prokhorov will clearly want to reduce his annual payment to the Islanders-a major impediment for him finding a buyer for the arena and the Nets who are both still losing money.

    Stay tuned.

  3. Renovating the lower bowl at Barclays wouldn’t help, I don’t think — the obstructed seats are all in the top deck. And centering the rink by moving it east — if that’s even possible, given there’s an apartment building going up immediately to the east right now — would only make for obstructed views at both ends.

    “Epic train wreck” is looking better and better as a description here, frankly.

  4. If they had built the full Lighthouse project, that would have mostly on Wang’s dime, apart from free land and infrastructures costs and such, of course.

    It was a neat idea, but every time I saw serious questions about putting such a huge huge project in the middle of already heavily-developed Nassau county, the answer always seemed to be, “Don’t worry about it”

    What about the traffic issues? Don’t worry about it.
    How about parking? Don’t Worry about it.
    Water and sewer capacity? Don’t worry about it.

  5. @WTH208
    My guess is that the Sound Tigers (who would make total sense for an AHL team at the Coliseum) are waiting on the Coliseum rerenovations to be done before even considering a move.

    IMO of course….it would make sense for the AHL parent of the Isles to call Uniondale home but nothing would surprise me at this rate.

  6. Why don’t they look on the positive side. It’s the only rink in hockey where you can park next to the glass. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CXRXwAOVAAAo8XF.jpg

  7. I don’t enjoying watching Islander games on TV with the black vacancy behind the glass, where people should be, makes it look like they’re playing in an old warehouse.

  8. Hey, there’s an unused arena in the NJ Meadowlands just sitting there. With parking and other transportation options.

    How much will it cost to buy off the Devils?

    LOL.

  9. Whoops! Tom is right.There is an unused arena in New Jersey.Sometimes the grass is not greener on the other side.Guess the Islanders are finding this out.Well there’s always Seattle if they ever build an arena for hockey and basketball.

  10. @Pauly: Funny you should mention Seattle, because the grim reality here may be that three NHL franchises in one metro area is one too many, even in a place like New York.

    If the Isles arena situation is really fluid/unstable as it’s being made out to be, then I don’t think it’s totally conceivable that they could eventually threaten to move out of the metro area altogether. But I’m merely musing here.

  11. My thinking is that if being a big fish in a smaller pond were really preferable to third fiddle in New York, Wang would have moved the Islanders years ago. But different owners have different motivations, obviously – see Clay Bennett.

  12. This would solve the Quebec City dilemma. I’ve always been against the Barclays move. It’s a black mark to the league and to the organization that they would resort to playing in a non-hockey arena. Take care of Quebec City then try to get someone other than Vegas that is also west of the Mississippi to pony up for an expansion team.

  13. @Kei.I think the New York market can support 3 hockey teams.Problem is the team that moved from long island in search of greener pastures should of probably stayed put.The arena they are in now was basically built for basketball.Plus wouldn’t Brooklyn also be more Rangers & Devils territory first?It’s one thing for the basketball team to move into Brooklyn but the old phrase be careful what you wish for you just might get it comes to mind.If I was an Islander fan who supported the team while on Long Island I would still be a fan but have to factor in travel time and cost now.Hey Quebec still wants a team as well.

  14. The people redoing the coliseum left in the option of bringing capacity back up to its original or close to original number. Assuming the story has merit to it, and both sides want out early Isles could always move back to the coliseum BUT only if a proper renovation is done-the $261 million that is currently being spent on it probably won’t be enough to make it palatable for a major league team to move back in.

  15. Marty T brings up a very valid point.The value of the Canadian dollar which is tied into the price of crude oil.An NHL owner in Canada gets ticket sales and pays salary’s in Canadian dollars but has to travel to 23 cities in the united States where costs are in dollars. This increases when the C$ falls in value against the u.s. dollar.

  16. Pauly: NHL player salaries are in USD period. Canadian NHL clubs have historically hedged heavily when the c$ is near, at or above par to limit the currency impact.

    It is true that the revenues for Canadian clubs are mainly in C$ (barring any US tv or revenue sharing from the league).

  17. The ticketed seats in the upper bowl are a tiny part of the revenue stream. Game revenue is up even though attendance is down because Barclay’s is focusing on the luxury boxes and lower bowl seats. The Isles are happy with the money they’re getting from Barclay’s and from MSG networks for the TV rights. The Isles won’t get that kind of $$$ in other cities, and now that they’ve worked out the commuting kinks for the players and they have a solid winning record at home I don’t see any short-term changes. Once the TV deal runs out then who knows, but right now this controversy is just click-bait for the NY Post.

  18. MrFix3 is 100% on point here. Wang never made a dime out in Uniondale, and I understand at Barclays he’s making ~~$20M per season.

    Plus, the prospect of reconverting the playing surface at Barclays to accommodate hockey would require the Nets to move out for at least one season, possibly two…so where do they play in the meantime? MSG? Izod? Prudential? Uniondale, maybe???

  19. Any discussion about the Islanders moving out of the city that doesn’t say a word about the team’s incredibly lucrative cable TV deal–the only thing that kept them alive on Long Island–is essentially an invalid story. That will always be a major deterrent to packing up and going elsewhere. With the weak Canadian dollar and a metro area size and income far less than New York, you think Quebec is going to match that amount? Dream on.

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