Bruce Ratner is the real estate mogul behind Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the NBA’s Nets play and where the New York Islanders are expected to play one day.
This week, we learned a few things from Ratner about the Isles: That they’re expected to remain in the dilapidated Nassau Coliseum until at least 2015; that he expects they’ll play a few games on Long Island even after they relocate boroughs; and that he was selected by Nassau County to privately fund the redevelopment of the Coliseum, which could one day house the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders’ minor league affiliate.
That is, if it doesn’t still house the Islanders for years to come.
That’s the theory by Tom Van Riper of Forbes, at least: That a scaled-down, renovated Coliseum as the centerpiece of a community development plan is “enough to make you wonder if a deal is bound to be struck at some point to keep the Islanders at home.”
Seriously. After all the Lighthouse Project wars and Brooklyn talk, the theory is the Islanders would remain on Long Island, because their future landlord is going to re-imagine their current land.
The thinking is that if Ratner’s plan for the Coliseum, which is currently for a 13,000-seat venue, matched the 15,000-seat capacity of the Brooklyn arena, would the Islanders still want to move?
It’s certainly possible that Ratner, a real estate guy more than a sports guy, wants to do the minimum arena needed to secure development rights to the surrounding area. Still, with Ratner now securing a major chunk of the cost needed for an NHL arena, experts say it’s certainly feasible that a deal could be worked out in which Islanders’ owner Charles Wang , or the Nassau taxpayers (or both), kick in the rest.
“Ratner can say to Wang, who is not a real estate guy, ‘hey, you couldn’t get your arena, now I got most of it’,” says Dan Rascher, president of SportsEconomics, a consultant that has worked with the NHL among other major sports leagues and properties. Any Wang offer would probably need to reflect the cost efficiencies that Ratner would lose by separating the teams and losing the 40 nights (plus preseason and playoffs) the Islanders would bring to the Barclays Center.
But Rascher points out that the revenue side is typically better for a club playing as a solo act in its building, starting with sponsors that pay more for signage in that setting. And a suburban location means lots of cars and parking fees that benefit your bottom line, not subway and railroad fares that benefit the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s.
There’s also this aspect of the Islanders’ move, via Lighthouse Hockey:
Ratner on lessons from Barclays: Six percent of attendees to Nets games come from Nassau County. 10 percent of attendees to its concerts come from Nassau. "So we've discovered it's a different demographic" and there is a need for a concert venue here [on Long Island].
There’s no question that if the Islanders move to Brooklyn, a number of fans who attend games at Nassau aren’t moving with them – despite the timing of the relocation likely being around when the team is going to be a contender. They’ll have to cultivate new fans, and that’s a daunting task.
So this Forbes theory preys on the insecurities of building an audience in Brooklyn and the nostalgic yearning to make Nassau work. That Ratner’s winning bid could be a significant step to keeping the team there is others play ball.
That said, Charles Wang sounds like a guy who intends to bring his team to Brooklyn.
(s/t Wayne Brown)