23 April 2012

Is the Barclays Center a real option going forward for the New York Islanders?

The New York Islanders have a bit of a rough future ahead of them out on Long Island. Everybody knows that the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is terribly outdated including the Islanders themselves, as they plan to leave once their lease expires in 2015. Their future out on the island is in major question, mostly after the plan for a new arena was voted down in a referendum last year. There is a new arena being built on Long Island, that of course is the Barclays Center, which will open this fall as home of the soon to be Brooklyn Nets in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, doesn't think the arena will be viable while Brett Yormark, CEO of the New Jersey Nets and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, says it is. But is it really?

When discussing the Barclays Center as a potential option for the Islanders, the first major question is transportation to the arena. The Nassau Coliseum is located right in the heart of Nassau County off the Meadowbrook State Parkway about halfway between the Long Island Expressway and the Northern State Parkway to the north and the Southern State Parkway to the south. Considering the fact that its fanbase draws from Nassau and Suffolk Counties, it's very accessible for them. Now considering the Islanders playing in Brooklyn at the western tip of Long Island in New York City. It becomes much harder for their current fanbase to get there, even as the Long Island Rail Road goes to the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, which is very close to the Barclays Center.

Now we have to talk about the arena itself as a hockey venue. The arena builders chose not to make the arena a multipurpose one that can hold both basketball and hockey for some reason and it's designed primarily for basketball purposes. Its hockey capacity would be around 14,500, which would be the smallest of any arena in the NHL (current smallest in the MTS Centre in Winnipeg with a capacity of 15,004). If the Islanders had an average attendance of 100% for the 41 home games if played at the Barclays Center, their attendance would rank 26th when using the attendance numbers for the 2011-2012 season.

Fortunately if the Islanders were to move to Brooklyn, they would not have pay compensation fees to the Rangers because they are allowed to play their games anywhere on Long Island. The Islanders will be hosting the Devils in a preseason game in October which should answer some questions about viability of the Barclays Center for hockey. If they choose not to play in Brooklyn, which has its fair share of drawbacks, then relocation is going to be real.

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