Thin ice: Barclays split could send Islanders back east

Photo by Steven Schnibbe

Isle be back!

A break-up between Barclays Center and the New York Islanders could pave the way for the National Hockey League team’s return to its native Long Island.

Bloomberg News reported on Monday that the Islanders are on the verge of being kicked out of Barclays Center, where they have been playing in front of sparse crowds on a rink shoe-horned into the Prospect Heights arena for the last two years.

But the team could find a home in the newly refurbished and soon-to-reopen Nassau Coliseum, where it won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, and reps in points east are chomping at the bit see a team hit the ice.

“I will be reaching out to the Islanders organization to convey my sincere and enthusiastic desire to facilitate the return of the Islanders Hockey Team to Nassau County,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino.

Seating could be a problem: the refurbished arena — set to reopen in April after a $260-million facelift by Forest City Ratner, the same developer that constructed Barclays Center — only has 13,000 seats.

But that number could be increased to more than 16,000 according to plans submitted to the town in 2015. Back then, Newsday reported that Ratner could request the town “consider an expansion of seating at the Coliseum back to existing capacity.”

Representatives for Barclays Center declined to comment on the possible move.

In Kings County, the Islanders draw just 12,828 fans per game — the third-worst attendance in the National Hockey League.

The arena, which is owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, is anxious to end its partnership with the team, reportedly because more money could be made without the Islanders on the ice. According to Bloomberg, a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the team won’t actually contribute any revenue after the 2018–19 season — giving the franchise just one more year in the borough.

It has been a rough two seasons in Brooklyn despite the team’s first playoff series in more than two decades last year at Barclays — fans complain of poor sight-lines and players of sub-par ice conditions.

The team’s arrangement with Barclays Center is also unusual, according to the Bloomberg report, which claims the arena actually pays the Islanders an average of $53.5 million a year in exchange for control of business operations, including revenue from ticket and suite sales.

The lease can be terminated by either side and if the Islanders want out of Brooklyn, the team can be gone as early as next season.

There were reports in July that the Islanders were interested in building a new arena next to Citi Field in Queens, but no official word has emerged.

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