Islanders to split games between Brooklyn and Nassau while awaiting Belmont Park arena — which may have a train problem

The New York Islanders made it official yesterday: Until their new Belmont Park arena is ready in 2021-ish, they’ll split time between Brooklyn and Nassau County, with 12 home games (out of 41) at the Nassau Coliseum next season and a total of 48 (out of 82) over the following two seasons. (Though those numbers could also include a few exhibition games; the announcement wasn’t super clear.)

If you’re wondering why the Islanders will still play any games in Brooklyn at all when the team owners hate the place and the feeling is mutual, team owner Jon Ledecky spelled that out:

“To be a max cap salary team you have to maximize revenue,” he said. “The Coliseum amenities are not as good as Barclays. There are over 100 suites at Barclays and less than a dozen here. Nassau Coliseum does not have an optimal situation at this point.”

In other words, we can make more money in Brooklyn, even if our fans hate it and we do too. But at least by splitting the difference Ledecky and his partners can avoid alienating fans further while waiting for that new arena to open.

And, oh yeah, about that new arena: The Village Voice’s Aaron Gordon has been looking at the possibilities for running Long Island Railroad trains there on a regular basis, as Ledecky is insisting the state of New York pay for, and discovered that this may run up against the bounds of the physical universe.

Currently, [Center for Transportation Research at University of Tennessee, Knoxville director David] Clarke says, there are no switches east of Belmont that allow trains to navigate the tracks in such a way that allow them to get to Belmont. The only option using existing infrastructure would be, as Clarke put it, to “zigzag”: overshoot the Y connection by a few hundred feet and then reverse across the switches to get to the Belmont spur. It would be like a three-point turn in the middle of a highway, but for a train.

And it gets worse: The LIRR could install new switches to the east of Belmont Park to avoid this zigzag solution, but thanks to a bridge over a highway immediately adjacent to the racetrack, this would require running westbound trains on eastbound tracks for a long stretch. During rush hour.

Then there’s the problem that even if a defunct rail spur were activated to get fans from Long Island to Belmont, the layout of the tracks would mean most of them would have to switch trains at a little-used station that would need massive upgrades to handle the surge of passengers, and … you know, just read the whole thing, it’s worth it. Suffice to say that when the MTA says it can’t begin to guess how much this will end up costing taxpayers, it probably has good reasons to.

13 comments on “Islanders to split games between Brooklyn and Nassau while awaiting Belmont Park arena — which may have a train problem

    • I can’t see how it would; the two sites are nowhere near each other…Belmont is closer to JFK than LaGuardia. Unless you’re seeing something I’m not seeing.

      • I was thinking a package deal with 2 projects – many want LaGuardia service, and the Islanders would push for both

        • I see what you mean. Would be a great thing if it could happen. The LaGuardia train would be much more useful than a better Belmont link…and I bet if you polled most Islander fans they’d say the same thing.

    • If there was a business case for the service to either location, wouldn’t it already be under construction or in the planning stages?

      Is 12-14,000 people making a round trip to a sports arena 50-75 times a year really going to make the difference in Transit Authority planning? I get that it’s almost 2m rides per year, but is that ‘enough’ to make a new line/stop/station work?

    • The Port Authority wish list includes an “Air Train LaGuardia”, similar to JFK and Newark. It’s a huge amount of $ that might not make the final cut.

      The closest the LIRR gets to LaGuardia is Willets Point.

      The point being: LaGuardia train connection is a PANYNJ issue, not LIRR, who have jurisdiction over Belmont.

  1. Looking at the site on google earth, I wonder if it would be possible to put the stadium north of the racetrack as opposed to south. Then an infill station could be build. This would result in the stadium being right next to the LIRR track and infill station.

    • The thing is that the four-tracks are really two two-track lines adjacent to each other in this area, and the two lines split a mile or so to the east, so any station there will have to have two island platforms or one island and two side platforms to serve all four tracks, meaning it’s not as easy as putting two platforms on either side and calling it a day.

      A better idea might be to ditch the current stub Belmont station entirely and do what you say and build a new infill stop, but make it a major express station. Basically combine the current Bellerose and Queens Village stops into a new complex that can also utilize that area north of the racetrack as a park and ride, and build some covered walkway or whatever to make the 1/2 mile walk to the Belmont grandstand tolerable. It’ll allow the LIRR to not have to maintain a worthless station that’s only used once a year, and allow any train on the mainline to pick up the slack during the races or for the new arena.

      Still, there’s about a hundred other things the LIRR should be spending money on other than a complete reimagining of its Belmont service.

    • Would also lessen the culling of the Belmont backyard that seems to be there in every rendering so far.

  2. Is Ledecky’s comment about the suite revenue at Brooklyn really credible?

    As I recall, the agreement pays the Islanders a fixed fee to play their games at the Nets Arena (what are we calling it these days? I still like brutalist dog turd the best). So, really, what does it matter how many suites the place has when the Islanders aren’t selling them anyway? Since they get a flat fee from Prokhorov (and I’m assuming here that the interim deal while they try to leave and create a new arena that will compete with both of Prokhorov’s existing ones will not be better than the current deal), the suite revenue from Brooklyn won’t impact them at all. Depending on how they structure the Nassau lease/rental agreement, they might well get less money… but it seems to be much ado about nothing given the short term and low revenues they are likely to get as lame duck tenants in either spot.

    Unless they have a new deal with Prokhorov that gives them a cut of revenues rather than a fixed fee, I don’t see how his ‘explanation’ makes any sense. Even if they do have a new deal, it seems unlikely that that will pay them more than the fee Prokhorov was paying them given that he clearly feels he can make more money without them taking up 40-50 dates a year.

  3. Off Topic:

    Neil, the main URL for this website is not working. Internal pages load but all I get from your home page is the ISP.

  4. It seems to me that the Belmont train problem could and should be remedied by Rapid Buses. With all of the buses in the metro region, it would seem to be relatively easy to come up with an armada of buses aimed at the Belmont arena from all 5 boroughs, LI, Westchester etc.

    • It would be a good idea except for the George W. Bush era rule forbidding public transit agencies from using public funds to handle charter services, which Park and Ride shuttles to sporting events would be considered. (This is why the Bills and Buffalo’s Metro Bus had to end park and ride service) Yes, stupid rule but even so