Islanders arena problems seemingly never end. There are reports the team’s owners are looking around Queens and Nassau for a new arena.
When the Charles Wang era as the New York Islanders majority owner ended last spring, it was thought the team was headed for some stability in Brooklyn. But that not be the case as the new ownership group is allegedly looking at sites for a new arena in Queens or Nassau County. Wang somehow kept his team in the New York area despite a horrible lease at the Nassau Coliseum, politicians unwilling to play ball with him in building an arena-village and a Nassau County citizenship that was uninterested in funding a new building for his team.
In the 1960s, Nassau County politicians decided to put an arena in an old air force base. The American Basketball Association found a buyer for the New Jersey Americans in Roy Boe who took his team to Long Island and eventually would get a lease with Nassau County. Boe then did the National Hockey League a big favor by buying an expansion team in 1971 to keep the rival World Hockey Association out of the New York market and competing with Madison Square Garden’s New York Rangers. Boe moved his ABA team into the NBA in 1976 and Madison Square Garden repaid him by demanding a ransom for invading Knicks territory. Boe couldn’t afford the merger fee and the Garden’s demands and sold off his best player Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers for $3 million. He sold the basketball team to New Jersey interests and nearly sunk his hockey team. John Pickett rescued the hockey team but made some really bad decisions. He signed an awful 30-year lease in 1985. Pickett also had a pair of con artists as partners and sold the team to a crook, John Spano who had no money. Eventually, Pickett sold the team to the Millstein brothers, New York City realtors who saw the team as a way to seize and develop the 77-acre Nassau Coliseum property. The Millsteins failed and Wang bought the team. Wang did have a large TV deal which helped. Wang moved to Brooklyn and sold his team. The saga of the Islanders is worthy of a Wharton case study.
Will the Islanders franchise stay in Brooklyn or will team owners seek a new venue somewhere in the area for their team?
Where will the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders franchise be calling home in 2020? Brooklyn? Queens? Or Belmont racetrack near the Queens-Nassau County border not far from the team’s old Nassau Coliseum home in Uniondale and the team’s present home in Brooklyn. And that may be problem, there could be too many arenas in the New York area for business and for Islanders ownership, the people who own the team’s present and former arenas just might not want more competition. That could be a rather interesting roadblock if Islanders ownership and the Brooklyn arena management decide to revisit the team’s iron clad 25-year lease after just two full seasons in January 2018. Islanders ownership wants to stay in New York.
The new Islanders ownership is also kicking the tires in the parking lot of the Mets baseball stadium in Queens to see if an arena could be built there. This is the second time the area has been considered for an Islanders arena. Then there is Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. The Garden owners may have to look for a new locale if New York City elected officials decide to end the Garden’s air rights lease over Penn Station to build a new transportation terminal. If the Islanders ownership is looking for city money in Queens, it might be a difficult task. The Belmont racetrack area is owned by the state and an arena can go onto the property without local opposition if New York State likes the plan. Four years ago, the state received four proposals for the property including a detailed design for a soccer facility from the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos. The state was less than impressed with any of the plans and is looking for new ideas. Islanders’ ownership has three options, stay or build in Queens or in Nassau. But is there an appetite for another building?