NY Rangers Owner Dolan Backs New Home for Islanders

  • NHL allows the owner of one team to invest in another’s arena
  • Proposed development in Belmont also supported by Wilpons

Goaltender Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders makes the save on a penalty shot by Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers during the first overtime period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the BB&T Center on April 22, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.

Photographer: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

A supergroup of New York sports executives, including owners of the New York Rangers and the New York Mets, is lining up to invest in a new arena just outside of Queens for the National Hockey League’s Islanders, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The Islanders play at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, though executives there have concluded that it’s no longer worth it to host the hockey team, and the lease can be terminated as early as January.

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.

If the Islanders choose to terminate their lease with Barclays Center, they can leave following next season. If Barclays nixes the deal the Islanders can remain at their current home through the spring of 2019.

Either way, the Islanders need a home. Bloomberg News reported in July that the Islanders were in talks with the owners of the Mets about building an arena adjacent to Citi Field in Queens.

Since then, the parties have switched their focus to in the Belmont site in Elmont, New York, which is controlled by the New York Racing Authority and sits about 19 miles east of Manhattan, just outside of Queens. It is accessible by car and by regional rail, and an arena there would bring the team closer to its traditional Nassau County fan base.

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.
A spokeswoman for the governor didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

"Any development at Belmont will occur through the normal process of an RFP, which has not been released yet," Empire State Development press secretary Amy Varghese said in an email. "Any talk of development at this point is speculative."

After unsuccessfully seeking taxpayer money for a new arena in Uniondale on Long Island, the Islanders said in 2012 they would leave the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for Brooklyn in time for the 2015-16 season. Long Island politicians and business owners have been lobbying for the team to return.

"The state should be facilitating their return to the Coliseum and not anywhere else, including Belmont," Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, said in an email.

The Islanders team’s tenure in Brooklyn has been rocky from the start. Average attendance has fallen to 13,003, second-worst in the NHL. Fans have complained about poor sight lines, and players say the ice is sub-par.

Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club, which is part-owned by the New York Yankees, has also expressed interest in having its own, soccer-specific stadium at the Belmont site. NYCFC participated in site development talks last month, though those negotiations aren’t active, one of the people said.

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