Islanders may not be ready to open new Belmont arena until 2022

Here’s the latest proposed timeline for the New York Islanders‘ new arena project next to Belmont Park, courtesy of Newsday’s Jim Baumbach:

As Metro NY notes, if the team can’t break ground on the arena until mid-2019, then it might not open until fall of 2021 or even 2022, which would mean a bunch of years playing in an interim home, likely at Nassau Coliseum.

None of this should be any surprise: It’s a project on state land, so has to go through the SEQR process just like the Nets‘ Brooklyn arena did, and that’s a year-plus timeline. If anything, I’d think the arena development group may need the time to get their financing ducks in a row — it’s possible they’ve lined up private loans and such already, but also possible they were leaving that until after they had formal approval to build at the Belmont Park site — not to mention figure out who’ll pay for increased train service to the arena, and how much they’ll pay in payments in lieu of taxes to the state, and how much of a break on the land costs they’ll get courtesy of state taxpayers. Oh wait, that last one is already determined: a whole heck of a lot. One hopes that this year-plus break will give local reporters the time to investigate the deal to see what the likely public costs will actually be, but one doesn’t hope all that hard, given past performance.

10 comments on “Islanders may not be ready to open new Belmont arena until 2022

  1. Anyone else thinking that the 4-5 year ‘temporary’ relocation might end up being quite a bit longer than that?

    I can see the Isles moving back to Hempstead and finding:

    a) that more fans will purchase tickets because the setting is better and they also realized they missed their club once it left.

    b) It’s just an entirely improved experience without Charles Wang running things (sort of).

    c) Significant roadblocks emerge in the Belmont plan, specifically around funding and, gasp, actual rent/lease payments expected for the land or building and access/policing etc.

    d) That even though the arena is smaller than ideal for NHL use, the capacity reduction actually works to their advantage as it drives stronger demand and thus higher average ticket prices… meaning the golden goose isn’t necessarily restricted to laying eggs in Belmont or Brooklyn.

    Of course this still leaves the transit issues for non Nassau County based fans… but perhaps this is something that can be improved, if not resolved entirely.

    • I’ll lay odds at 1:1 move to Belmont by 2022, 2:1 still at Nassau indefinitely, 6:1 stay at Barclays, 20:1 something we haven’t considered yet.

      (Yes, I just pulled those numbers out of Megatron’s Butthole, but they feel right, more or less.)

      • Fair enough.

        Let me just say that I’m sorry to hear that Calvin Johnson appears to be having this ‘retention’ problem… but age catches up to us all at some point, I guess… and all those years playing for the sad sack Lions had to do permanent damage somehow.

        Given that Prokhorov controls both arenas, is there any meaningful chance that he offers the team good terms to stay at Nassau as doing so is a zero sum game for him (so long as they are at Atlantic Yards), or possibly better than that since he presumably needs dates filled at the old NCC (not sure on that) and doesn’t really want another arena at Belmont to compete with both his current ones?

        Seems like there is a deal to be made there… but if logic entered into this they would have partnered with Ratner from the off… which, well, Charles Wang.

        • Maybe? I don’t really understand why Ratner and Prokhorov thought renovating the Coliseum was a good investment, or actually why building the Barclays Center or buying the Nets was one, either. There seems to be a lot of “buy up everything in sight > ??? > profit!!!” reasoning going around in the business world these days. Or maybe rich dudes just like shiny things as much as mayors do.

          • It has to do with the rush they get wheeling and dealing. Close to a gamblers taste for action.

          • I think they just wanted an arena to put the baby Nets in that wasn’t the Barclays Center.

            Which is honestly better than “Hey lets do what the AHL does and share the same arena as our major league parent.”

          • There aren’t too many sports franchises that lose money when they are sold (Yankees in 1973 may be the only one) and basketball is one American game (alright, invented by a Canadian in America) that has international appeal.

    • Re: d), Nassau Coliseum doesn’t have the luxury box capacity of Barclays, which is where the revenue dollars are really at for NHL teams.

      But that building may have to do until Belmont is finished if they can’t do one year leases at Barclays.

      • Fair point, but it only works if you have and can sell the suites.

        At Barclays, the Islanders get a flat fee (which theoretically I guess includes a cut of the suites… or the Nets might generate extra revenue from the suites based on additional dates, even if they are hockey team dates… or maybe having the Islanders as tenants does nothing for the revenue from suite sales, we just don’t know). At Nassau, the Islanders never had suites to sell, as you note. So they’ve never really had any sort of revenue stream directly from suites in their history.

        As with everything else in the sports world, building suites to generate revenue seems to only work (or work best, in some cases) when someone else pays the construction and operating costs. If the Islanders have to pay for their own arena, I’m not sure that the extra revenues justify the extra cost.

        Perhaps the new owners just want to be closer to NY proper (the Kroenke paradox, adjusted for geographical difference). If so, I understand why they would be willing to pay for their own arena (or some of it). This also gives them the ability to capitalize on growth decades down the road as the team becomes more entrenched in whatever district they actually end up in. There’s definitely upside there.

        Balanced against that, they have to spend a good deal of money to achieve this and may struggle for years/a decade or so to build a fan base in their new location.

        It’s an interesting decision they have to make.

        Of course, if they are able to use taxpayers money to build would make that decision much easier… you get the upside o the move and have limited the downside. Much like owning a Lamborghini would be better if someone else paid for it and covers the maintenance and operating costs.

  2. Based upon the additional information available today, it is clear the both the NHL and the Islanders do not want to play in the Coliseum (or in Nassau County) until the Elmont arena is completed.

    The Coliseum clearly does not have enough revenue streams (luxury boxes, etc) and Prokharov will not pay for the necessary upgrades that would have to be made. He would not do so in Brooklyn either.

    The real issue is whether or not an agreement will be reached between the Islanders, Barclays, New York State, and Nassau County to close/redevelop the Coliseum complex once the Elmont arena opens.

    Nassau County would both have to reopen the current lease agreement and economic incentives would have to be given to in order to do so.

    Stay tuned.