03 August 2011

What is Next for the New York Islanders?

The New York Islanders are in a very tough situation. The team is rapidly losing money playing in the decrepit Nassau Coliseum. Attendance has been very low, ranking near the bottom of the NHL for years now. And the most recent plan to build a new arena on Long Island was voted down by voters. Amidst relocation rumors, the time is running out on this once proud franchise. What will its next move be?
Islanders owner Charles Wang
The plan that the team is most favorable to is staying in the area at all all costs. A new arena is sorely needed because the Coliseum is way past its prime and is really hampering the organization. Unfortunately for the team, a new arena will have to paid with private money because the voters in Nassau County, one of the most taxed counties in the nation, have been consistently opposed to a new arena being paid for with public money. The key will be finding another outside source of money to build a new arena whether it be in Nassau or Suffolk County or possibly in Queens because Islanders owner Charles Wang seems very reluctant to pay for it himself.
One option that has gained some momentum of late that would have the team still be on Long Island and that would be if they shared the soon to be opened Barclays Center in Brooklyn with the Nets, who are relocating there in time for the 2012-13 NBA season. The problem with playing there is that after the project was downsized a couple of years ago, the capacity for NHL games will be greatly reduced than what it originally would have been. It is projected to hold 14,500 seats for hockey, which would be the smallest capacity in the NHL. But even a small arena would be a better option than the Coliseum, but preferably a short-term option. It is also important to note that the base of the fanbase is out on the island which is not that close to Brooklyn nor is it that easy from getting to Brooklyn from out on Long Island.
It seems that the most likely option now is relocation and the favorite in the clubhouse right now is Quebec City. But the Islanders will not be able to move willy-nilly. Their lease on the Coliseum runs through 2015, the team does have a long-term contract with Cablevision to televise their games on MSG+ and the NHL will probably want to keep the team on Long Island. Why might you asked? Because the Islanders have found success on the island, both on and off the ice. Gary Bettman has been loathe to move clubs that have been successful.
So the options are not pretty for the club and they are in an unenviable situation. What happens next is anybody's guess.

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