The New York Islanders are leaving Brooklyn.
The franchise has won a billion dollar development deal to build a new 18,000-seat arena in Belmont Park, which is east of New York City. It isn’t clear when the team will make the move and start playing in their new digs, but the Islanders are leaving the Barclays Center following the 2018-2019 season.
The team’s proposal includes the arena, a hotel, a pile of retail space, and an “innovation center.”
“Our fans deserve this,” team owner Jon Ledecky said. “This is about a legacy for them, this is about us being community stewards of a great team, a great franchise. This building, this world-class, state-of-the-art, third-generation building, that gives them the reward that they deserve so justly for hanging with the team.”
The Islanders have spent just three seasons in Brooklyn after skating in Uniondale at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum since 1972.
“It’s not about relief,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “I’m happy for Long Island, I’m happy for Islanders fans, I’m happy for the Islanders players. I think this is a great day for the franchise and a great day for Long Island.”
The team may require a temporary home after it leaves the Barclays Center, which opens up questions about playing a season in Uniondale once more. The Nassau facility was renovated after the Islanders moved on and has fewer than 14,000 seats for a hockey game, but it’ll do in a pinch.
For the most part, the club and its supporters are thrilled about the move.
“I think it’s really, truly where the team belongs,” captain John Tavares said. |The New York Islanders are called the Islanders for a reason. It’s exciting news. Obviously, we have some time left playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and we’ve got to make the most of it and build off the success we’ve had there for the last couple of years.”
The Barclays Center was, in the minds of many, doomed to failure. The arena was not designed for a hockey team and predominately housed an NBA franchise, plus it sent Islanders fans on a significant commute to Brooklyn from Long Island.
The hockey club beat out a proposal from the New York City FC soccer club, by the way. Belmont Park hosts the Belmont Stakes and will house the new arena in one of the racetrack’s parking lots.