The Islanders are coming to Brooklyn!
Well, for one game, anyway.
Shortly after BrooklynDaily.com reported that Borough President Markowitz wants to put the Barclays Center on ice — and claimed that hockey will indeed be coming to the soon-to-be-opened $1 billion arena — the arena’s management announced that the stickmen will play one game at the soon-to-open events center on Oct. 2.
The New York Islanders will take on the hated New Jersey Devils just days after the arena’s scheduled grand opening that will feature multiple concerts by the rap mogul Jay-Z.
The Barclays Center announcement hinted of professional hockey in the area’s future, even though just one game is scheduled so far for the Nassau County-based team.
“We feel Brooklyn is an untapped hockey market that offers the Islanders with an exciting opportunity to grow its fan base,” Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said.
The news of the game was hinted at by Markowitz during an impromptu preview of his State of the Borough address Saturday at the Bay Ridge Community Council’s annual luncheon.
“It would be great to see some hockey at the arena,” the uncharacteristically tight-lipped Beep told us before zipping out of the Bay Ridge Manor on 76th Street, claiming that any official announcements will be made at his annual State of the Borough address tomorrow. “In Brooklyn, there should be an NHL team, no question.”
Markowitz rattled off a number of other attractions coming to the Brooklyn Nets’ new home in its first year, including monster truck races and concerts by stars the Beep “never dreamed would come to Brooklyn to perform” — though he didn’t give any specifics.
He did say that Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus — which folded up its tents and at a summertime spot in Coney Island last year — will perform at the arena .
It’s not the first time professional hockey at the Barclays Center has bee mentioned.
Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner said in September that he was “hoping” that the New York Islanders would move to the Barclays Center — the heart of the controversial Atlantic Yards Project — once the struggling team’s lease at the Nassau Coliseum expires in 2015. His comments were a reversal of his longtime claim that the Prospect Heights arena would be too small to host pro hockey games.
Still, National Hockey League officials seem to be leaning toward keeping the Islanders to our east: earlier this week, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said that he found it “hard to believe” a deal couldn’t be hammered out to keep the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.
Bettman added that any municipality hoping to draw a National Hockey League team shouldn’t get its hopes up. The league makes no promises about giving anyone a franchise, he explained.
“We don’t like to move teams,” Bettman told New York Newsday, a Long Island newspaper.
But such a move is possible. A deal with the National Hockey League requires the Islanders remain on Long Island, which, to the surprise of many, includes Brooklyn at its western tip — making the Barclays Center an attractive option if the Islanders do decide to abandon the Nassau Coliseum.
Hockey was originally intended as one use when starchitect Frank Gehry initially designed the arena, but plans for an ice rink were canceled after Gehry was fired two years ago to cut costs.
As currently designed, the 18,000-seat basketball arena could only fit 14,500 spectators when configured for pro hockey. That would make it the smallest arena in the National Hockey League, but big enough to accommodate the Islanders anemic attendance in Nassau County, which averaged just 11,000 fans per game during its 2010–2011 season.
But hockey wasn’t the only thing on Markowitz’s mind on Saturday. He also trumpeted his desire to bring casino gambling to Coney Island — an idea this paper reported two weeks ago.
“We’re pushing hard for a casino on Coney Island,” he told luncheon attendees. “It would help Coney Island in so many ways.”
Yet the Beep denied some claims that putting a casino in Coney Island would destroy the People’s Playground.
“I’m not planning to make Coney Island into Atlantic City,” he said, recognizing that the “Las Vegas of the East” has problems with crime and poverty.
Governor Cuomo proposed legalizing table gambling in his State of the State address, saying that the Queens Aqueduct racino should be expanded to include the world’s largest convention center, as well as a casino.
But as far as Markowitz is concerned, Coney Island’s amusement area is “a natural” place for a casino — and if Queens is getting one, so should Brooklyn.
“I want to be sure that [Cuomo] knows that a casino should not just be in his home borough,” he said. “If there is going to be a casino in Queens, then there should be one in Brooklyn.”