New York Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky again stressed this weekend that his team’s arena is totally on track to open in 2021 as scheduled, so it’s good timing that I had an article run at Deadspin yesterday pointing out that yeah, it really isn’t, at least not if the elected officials threatening to block it if it doesn’t come with a full-service train station are serious, because there’s no easy way to build a full-service train station there.
And even if they do approve it anyway, it will likely result in an arena that is once again hard to get to by both car and public transit, which has a bunch of Islanders fans slightly worried they’d be getting out of the Brooklyn frying pan and into the fire. My favorite bit:
James Francis Fess, a lifelong Islanders fan—he claims that his father literally placed an Islanders hat on his head the day he was born—and a leader of the Blue and Orange Army fan group, worries that the traffic on the nearby Cross Island Parkway on game days “is going to be insanity. The traffic around the Coliseum is nothing like around Belmont. You can look up any single day on a traffic map, and I guarantee you that it’s going to be black on the Cross Island.”
Fess says he got to ride to the Belmont arena announcement last season with the team’s entourage, which included both Ledecky and longtime broadcaster Stan Fischler, who moonlights as a transit expert. The resulting conversation, he says, was both enlightening and worrisome.
“I mentioned to [Ledecky], ‘It’s not true that people will have to transfer at Jamaica still, right? Like how they do for the Barclays Center.’ And he’s like, ‘No, we want the train to go directly there. Stan’ll know about this, because Stan knows everything about trains.’”
Fischler, recalls Fess, began rattling off a list of changes that would be needed to make full service to Belmont a reality. “Ledecky’s sitting there like, ‘Wait a second.’ I see the look on his face, and I think ‘Oh no, they didn’t even think about this.’”
All the Islanders fans I spoke to wished that the team had just stayed put at the Nassau Coliseum site, and while there’s no doubt some sentimentality behind that, it’s also true that getting to an arena on the Queens/Nassau border on a weeknight during rush hour with limited train service is not going to be pretty. It may be the best option now after what the current team owners stumbled into following Charles Wang’s impulsive flight to Brooklyn — I spend much of the end of the article discussing the increasing evidence that rich sports people are no better at planning and decision making than the rest of us — but it’s still pretty remarkable that Islanders owners keep picking places to play and saying, “We’ll figure out how to get fans there later.”