Islanders can actually leave Brooklyn in 2018, this is gonna be fun

So it turns out the New York Islanders lease doesn’t actually say the team can opt out of its Brooklyn lease after four years as previously reported — Newsday has discovered it says the Islanders can leave after three years or four years, as they so choose:

After the Islanders finish their second season in Brooklyn, the two sides have until Jan. 1, 2018, to renegotiate the terms of the current deal. If no new deal is reached, the two sides can stay with the current deal or choose to opt out. Each side would have until Jan. 30, 2018, to deliver an opt-out notice in writing.

If the Islanders decide to opt out, the team can choose to leave at the end of either its third or fourth season. If Barclays triggers the opt-out, the Islanders would have to leave after the fourth season. The team just completed its first season in Brooklyn in May.

The two sides need to be engaged in “good-faith negotiations” for either side to trigger the opt-out, but, of course, that’s what this opt-out would be all about: The Islanders’ new owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, who haven’t been quiet about their “challenges” they say their team faces at the Barclays Center, want a renegotiated lease that gives them either a bigger cut of revenues or more hockey-friendly renovations of some kind or both, and there’s been talk that they might build their own arena in Queens or Long Island or even move back to Nassau Coliseum to create leverage.

That would be complicated, though, notes Newsday, by the clause requiring good-faith negotiations: It means Ledecky and Malkin couldn’t agree to a new arena deal before January 2018, and there’d then be no way to build an arena by fall of 2019 in time for the team to move. So the Islanders would presumably have to play somewhere else for a year or two — Nassau Coliseum would be available, but undersized for the NHL in its new configuration, though the Barclays Center is also undersized, and it would only be for a couple of years, so…

All this is no doubt going to be lurking in the background whenever the Isles owners and Barclays Center (and Brooklyn Nets) owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s people sit down to start those lease talks. Ledecky and Malkin don’t have great leverage, but they do have some leverage, so we’ll just have to see what they do with it. A couple of things are for sure: Former owner Charles Wang was apparently lying when he called the Islanders’ 25-year lease in Brooklyn “ironclad,” and he wasn’t such a terrible negotiator after all.

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26 comments on “Islanders can actually leave Brooklyn in 2018, this is gonna be fun

  1. Drawing from yesterday’s discussion, don’t be surprised if the Islanders owner’s take a highly visible vacation to Quebec City, but claim it was on unrelated matters, while a mock up jersey is leaked to the press reading, “Le Quebec Habitants des îles.”

    1. I’d love to see that happen although I’d feel bad for Islander fans who got their hopes up when it looked they would be keeping their team long term due to the “ironclad” statements. My preference would be to see Columbus, Florida or Carolina move to QC and then have the Islanders build their own arena in Queens.

    2. I really doubt that NY-to-Quebec makes any kind of financial sense given the market size disparities. (Not to mention that Quebecor wants to own their own team, and Ledecky and Martin just bought and won’t want to sell.)

      Dropping vague threats about Quebec, on the other hand, that could totally happen. Though given that they’re trying to shake down Prokhorov, not (yet) NYC, they might be better off sticking with threatening to move to Queens, which is marginally more believable.

      1. Least anyone forget, the Islanders main source of income remains the Cablevision contract that runs through 2031.

        Not a chance of them duplicating the $ received from that in another market

  2. My hockey guy tells me they are going back to their old pad, who knows. Also said the NHL will expand to 34 so it seems crazy and all.

    1. Wow. 34 teams…so that means three more teams. Assuming nobody moving or folding, I guess Quebec City would be one, so would either Portland or Seattle. Who’s the third – Saskatoon? Hamilton? Milwaukee? Maybe Seattle AND Portland?

      1. I think Milwaukee is building a basketball specific arena so they probably won’t want another Barclays Center like problem with weird angles and sightlines. I would go with Portland, QC and a shocker….Salt Lake City.

        1. Salt Lake City’s hockey arena fits 10,100. An alternative would be to rent from the Jazz.

          Salt Lake City and Utah taxpayers are pretty cheap. They even made the Jazz pay for most of their own arena.

          The Utah Jazz is, well, a religion in Utah.

          1. I was implying that they would play at Vivint where the Jazz play. Unlike a lot of NBA arenas, this one is layed out for hockey.

      2. I’ll go with “I’ll believe it when I see it, not when an unnamed ‘hockey guy’ alleges it.” (No offense to you or your guy, Runner.)

  3. Man, I hate these “ironclad” deals. Two words: Indiana Pacers.

    That arena is going to bleed cash without the Islanders. Not enough events.

    Speaking of not having enough events, the Bee had this article yesterday about the next big act to come to Sacramento, including comments about why we’re only getting “Oldies” acts. I could have told them why five years ago: Because there isn’t a lot left out there now. There are probably 20 big acts worldwide, then it gets thin after that. To people who have been paying attention, this isn’t a surprise.

    The article is about Stevie Nicks. When was her last hit? I actually kind of like Fleetwood Mac, but come on. Apparently, though, Green Day has already snubbed Sacramento. Yes, that huge act. Well, okay, if it was 2008, huge act.

    Good luck to you in NYC over another arena debacle. I did notice it was not losing much money; fifty fewer events will push you well into the red.

    1. I doubt the Islanders are bringing in much more money for Barclays than Stevie Nicks is, to be honest. Though when you’re competing with that many other venues, any dates are good dates.

      And every generation thinks it’s the last one to have superstars. Twenty years ago I’d never have thought that Wilco and Flaming Lips would be headline arena shows, and I’m sure I’ll be surprised again 20 years from now. Being able to headline a big venue is more about having a lot of people who’ve heard of you than having a hit record anytime in recent memory. (Cf. Paul McCartney.)

      1. Are the Flaming Lips filling arenas?

        Besides that, they won’t come. People who manage these tours are paid to recognize market demographics. If you have three markets in Northern California — Oracle, HP Pavilion and Golden 1 — are you going to stop at all 3? Probably not. How about when SF’s new arena opens? All 4? Even worse. No, if you’re going to go to 2 of these 4, I’d bet Sacramento will be the odd arena out. Even if my lips are on fire.

        That’s what we’re seeing here. “Gee, we’re getting nothing but oldies. How come?” Because DUH.

        1. Sacramento is a different market than SF/Oak/SJ. Concerts still go to both NY metro & Philly – an exact comparison

    1. I would expect a 32nd team will be added within 3 years of Las Vegas arrival. I wouldn’t bet on 34 though. The league might (but no more than that) get $400m-500m for a 31st franchise, but given the available markets it seems unlikely that the 32nd and followers will pay that.

      I would bet on QC buying and relocating an existing encumbered team (*not the Islanders… they aren’t leaving the New York area/state).

      I just don’t see anyone ponying up the kind of cash the NHL is talking about for an franchise in Seattle (need to build an arena without much in the way of public subsidy… which the NHL demands…) or Kansas City. The arena is there, but it’s managed by a company that isn’t going to be all that thrilled with the idea of sharing non-hockey event revenues… and may not even be willing to share the revenues they are due from NHL events either. A team there would be a tenant in the truest sense of the word.

      The NHL has a few franchises that may have to be moved to new markets sooner rather than later. They can adjust revenue sharing to help Glendale, Florida and Carolina for a while… but ultimately the other owners are going to want to see a plan for an actual turnaround rather than continued bleeding.

  4. The Islanders are not moving to Quebec (or Kansas City) unless NYC area sinks into the ocean. NHL is leery of Quebec after Canadian dollar fell badly and really wants someone in Seattle to build an arena.

    One thing the Isles’ management will surely push for is better dates. Saturday home games at the Coliseum were a staple for 40+ years. There are 5 Saturday home dates this season (one in the afternoon), up from 4 last season. Nets get first claim on dates, but if they want to keep Isles, they’ll have to throw in more Saturdays. Owners might also try to help team avoid marathon road trips in Feb-March (9-gamer this season after 7-gamer in ’15-16).

    The basic problem at Barclays is simple: The arena was not built to be hockey-friendly, and there’s no easy way to change that. The building has a very small footprint; about 2,000 seats have obstructed views, and the situation can’t be fixed without a major remodeling that would knock out a street or two. Also, rumors are that Barclays, though heavily booked, is losing $$ because it has to overpay top acts and events.

    The Nassau Coliseum (13,000 or so seats) will be too small, though thousands of Isles fans won’t admit it. Gary Bettman won’t let it happen after the Gong Show the NHL and the Isles went through with Nassau County. Remodeling also said to be behind schedule.

    Bigger problem: Metro NYC is swimming in arenas, with Barclays, a completely remodeled MSG, Prudential Center (losing $$) and a remodeled Coliseum (with Nets owner Mikhail Prohorov’s company doing the remodeling). Izod Center has already gone kaput. How many events will a building in Queens or at Belmont be able to attract? Hard to see it getting enough to be profitable.

    Last consideration: New owners paid big price to buy a team that plays in NYC, not in suburbs. Queens is probably OK, Belmont might work, but anything further East is likely a non-starter.

  5. Given the NHL’s last realignment, I was banking on then wanting Houston and Seattle. With Seattle unable to get a suitable arena, they’ve settled for Vegas.

    In the East, I’m sure they’re sitting on the option of a struggling team (Carolina, Columbus, Florida) to make the move to Quebec.

    Timezones were the biggest discussion point during realignment. I don’t see that being compromised much.

  6. The bottom line is in order for the Islanders to stay in Brooklyn the lease will have to be renegotiated-perhaps a 3 percent increase in the annual payments per year plus a percentage of the advertising and suite revenues-along with a major renovation of the lower bowl paid for by Prokhorov.

    If not, the new ownership will probably opt out and work out an agreement to play temporarily in another venue until a new arena is built-apparently MSG is consulting with them in having a new arena built in either Queens or Elmont so it is possible the Islanders could play at MSG for a season or two-the old WHA team played there in the 1970’s.

    Stay tuned.

    1. MSG doesn’t have any available dates during hockey season. Also, Islanders fans would freak — it would be like the Yankees playing home games at Fenway Park.

      The Isles’ owners leverage isn’t super, since a new arena would be very tough to get approvals (and money) for, but it is something. These are going to be very fascinating, likely nasty, lease talks.

  7. Neil:

    Three professional teams play at the Staples Center-it would mean MSG would have to reschedule or cancel certain concert and college basketball dates and have two hockey games on the same day-afternoon and evening-similar to what the Lakers and Clippers do.

    MSG’s renovation of the Forum in LA has been financially successful for them and they recently created a company-with I. Azoff-to manage arena and stadiums-similar to AEG.

    With the billions the Dolan’s received in selling Cablevision I could see them being equity partners in a new arena for the Islanders.

    If Islander fans would have a new arena-with enough parking and room for tailgating-similar to Nassau County-I am sure they would take the LIRR for another season or two in order to be in a better venue (MSG) for hockey.

    1. Have you *met* Islanders fans? I don’t think any of them would set foot in MSG without pitchforks and flaming torches.

    2. If you are suggesting that the Islanders would be better off as the lowest priority tenant at MSG for a “couple of seasons” as opposed to being #2 in Brooklyn (or maybe back at the reconfigured coliseum), I disagree.

      MSG doesn’t have to do anything to help the Islanders. I’m not sure why all of a sudden the Islanders self inflicted plight is everyone else’s problem to solve.

      Their former owner was offered an opportunity to invest in the arena in Brooklyn to make it fully hockey compatible. He declined. The arena was built specifically for basketball as a result. There is only one party responsible for that decision: Islanders ownership (though not the current owners).

      I agree they have some options, but going cap in hand to MSG doesn’t seem to be the best to me.

    3. The conversion of Staples from Clippers to L*kers is pretty straightforward – rip and replace the floor, and take down all the tarps that are covering up all the L*kers championship banners and retired numbers, change the scoreboard programming, done.

      For hockey, though, the ice at MSG would have to be melted, Rangers decals removed and Islanders decals placed instead, then flood and refreeze. There’s no way Rangers would accept a “generic” rink for a temporary tenant, and the above commenters are absolutely correct that the only way Isles fans go into MSG as a “home” rink with NYR markings is with flaming torches and pitchforks.

      Maybe Izod Center could be brought back from the dead on a temporary basis, but if Isles fans are already griping about Barclays Center, would they countenance going out to East Rutherford?

  8. It’s good to be back here after a long absence. And good to say this once more with gusto: Hockey… LOL!

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