The Islanders are moving to Brooklyn.
The Long Island-based hockey team announced on Wednesday that it will play its home games at the new Barclays Center at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues beginning in 2015 — and continuing through 2040.
The breakaway to Brooklyn comes after Islanders owner Charles Wang claimed he would move his team out of Long Island if he didn’t get a new arena to replace the asbestos-riddled Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum by the time his lease there expires at the end of next year. Long Island voters nixed a plan for that new arena shortly before the completion of the Barclays Center, giving Wang all the incentive he needed to depart for Brooklyn.
“Our goal is to have the Islanders play in a world class arena and we have achieved that goal,” Wang said.
On hand for the announcement were Mayor Bloomberg, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Borough President Markowitz, and a slew Barclays Center bigwigs including Forest City Ratner head Bruce Ratner, who cheered the Islanders owner for keeping team in New York.
“Charles got offers to move the team out of state, but he wouldn’t do that,” Ratner said.
The Islanders will become the second professional sports team to call the Barclays Center home, joining the Brooklyn Nets — which moved to the arena from the Prudential Center in New Jersey this year and will take the court on Nov. 1.
And Markowitz says he can’t wait until the first puck drops.
“I will take the first spin on the Zamboni,” said Markowitz.
The move is somewhat of a surprise, considering the Barclays Center was not designed with a hockey rink in mind, and when games are played there many seats will be left empty to accommodate the playing area, which is larger than a basketball court.
But Ratner has long courted the Islanders. Hockey was originally considered for the arena but the plans were scuttled after Barclays Center starchitect Frank Gehry was fired in 2009 and his proposed design was scraped in an attempt to cut costs.
The Barclays Center will be the smallest arena in the NHL, holding about 14,500 spectators in a horseshoe configuration. Designers hope to figure out a way to squeeze in at least 500 more people, which would get it nearly even with the 15,004-seat MTS Center in Winnipeg, Canada, home of the Jets. Most NHL hockey arenas hold 15,000–20,000 fans. The biggest, in Montreal, Canada, holds 21,273. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, home of the Islanders rival Ranger, holds 18,200, and the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey holds 17,625.
But NHL officials don’t thing the small capacity will affect the team’s success.
“It’s not an issue,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.“Winnipeg is doing well.”
The Islanders had been scheduled to play a preseason game at the arena, but it was canceled —along with the rest of the NHL’s preseason games — due to a lockout by ownership over the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players.
The team will replace the Brooklyn Aviators, a minor league hockey team that played its home games at the Aviator Sports Complex in Floyd Bennett Field that folding after last season, as Brooklyn’s lone professional hockey team.
Ratner said the arrival of the Islanders will not speed up the much-delayed plan to build controversial housing towers in his beleaguered Atlantic Yards mega-development.
Brooklyn Islander fans we spoke to were ecstatic to hear the team will move to within walking distance of their homes.
“It’s great for Brooklyn and great to keep the rivalry here for the Rangers,” said Park Slope resident Gregory Wortham.