The latest twist in the forever twisting, turning saga of the New York Islanders and their arena woes? That the team might move out of Barclays Center in Brooklyn for a new arena near Belmont Park Racetrack, a building “invested in” by New York Rangers owner James Dolan.
And exhale …
Bloomberg News reports that a “supergroup” of New York sports executives are combining their Wonder Twin powers to activate a new arena at the Belmont site in Elmont. That’s land controlled by the New York Racing Authority, around 19 miles east of Manhattan but accessible by car or train and, most importantly, more desirable for the team’s core fan base that isn’t trekking out to Brooklyn for these games.
The Islanders’ lease in Brooklyn can be terminated as early as January. Please recall that Barclays Center has pretty much made it clear that the team isn’t in its future plans.
The new arena proposal is a joint venture between the Islanders, Oak View Group and Sterling Project Development, said the people, who asked to be anonymous because the talks are private. James Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Co., which controls the Rangers, long the Islanders hated rivals, is an investor in Oak View Group, the private equity group run by Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff. The Wilpon family, which owns the Mets, controls Sterling Project Development.
NHL rules permit the owner of one team to have a stake in another club’s arena. The Islanders, MSG and Oak View Group declined to comment.
… New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken part in the proposed arena talks and is seeking to attach infrastructure improvement projects to it, the people said without being specific.
Back in Summer 2016, Crain’s initially reported that Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky were in talks with the Wilpons for an arena project:
The Islanders, who are owned by Value Retail Plc founder Scott Malkin and Jonathan Ledecky, and Sterling Equities, which owns the Mets, have been discussing a possible move to Queens for months, said the people.
The team is being advised in the talks by Oak View Group, a consulting firm founded by ex-AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff, who is a business partner of the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the Knicks and the Rangers. MSG CEO James Dolan once gave Azoff credit for bringing hall-of-fame basketball coach Phil Jackson to the Knicks.
So is Oak View, and James Dolan, an investor as Bloomberg reported or a consultant as was indicated by Crain’s a year ago? Because that could be the difference between the NHL bending some rules for this to happen, or not having to. (And given that they want the Islanders to stay in NYC, one assumes they’d bend them.)
Now, the New York area doesn’t need another arena. At this rate, there’s going to be one arena for every 100 people living in the area:
There’s Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, Prudential Center in Jersey, a renovated Nassau Coliseum and this Belmont arena. Look, there are only so many wrestling shows to be held. And the circus is closed for good.
However … that’s a lot of big-time muscle behind this project. The idea that Dolan, the Wilpons and Leiweke will bring this thing to life if the coalition holds is fairly realistic. As is the idea that Charles Oakley won’t be attending any Islanders games, going forward.
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